How do I ask for flexible working?

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There is a process for your employer to follow as regards requests for flexi working.

If you are an employee with more than 26 weeks’ service with your employer, you can ask to work flexibly by writing to your employer, (or filling in a form if they have one), setting out details of the flexible working arrangement you’d like.

What type of flexible working request should I make?

You can either make a statutory or non-statutory request for flexible working.

A statutory flexible working request is made within the flexible working law.  You have to be an employee with more than 26 weeks’ employment to make a statutory request.  You can only make one request a year – so if your request is granted, you can’t seek to change the arrangement again for a year, if it’s rejected,  you have to wait a year before making another request. The request should be dealt with within 3 months. However, you have protections under the flexible working law if your request is refused or your employer treats you unfairly because you made a request.

A non-statutory flexible working request is different, and outside the statutory framework.  It may not give you as much protection, but this will depend on the circumstances.  As you’re outside of the statutory framework, there are no rule about how the request should be made, you can make more than one request a year, there’s no minimum service requirement, and you might get a quicker decision – though your employer isn’t required to deal with the request within 3 months. A non-statutory request might be a good idea if you need short term changes to cover, say, a sudden change in childcare arrangements that will go back to normal in a few weeks’ time.

Can I request to reduce my working hours?

Yes, in fact you can request to change anything about your current working arrangements.  Flexible working arrangements can be anything that’s different from the norm for your role in your organisation.

So, you can ask to work fewer hours, fewer days, or to squeeze full time hours into fewer days.  You can ask to work term time only.  You can ask to work on a hybrid basis, partly from home and partly from the office.  You can ask to shift your normal working hours from 9 to 5 to 7 to 3, on all your working days or just some of them.

What are the steps for a flexible working request?

As a non-statutory request isn’t subject to any rules about what to say, we’ll stick to the statutory framework here.

The request must be in writing, and dated. It must also state that it’s a statutory request for flexible working – this is a good thing as it draws the employer’s attention, and clearly reminds them that this is a statutory procedure, which carries rights and obligations on both parties, and potential claims in respect of any failures by your employer.

The request must also set out the arrangement you want, and when you want it to start. Currently, flexible working requests also have to set out how the proposed changes would affect your employer and colleagues, and how any such changes could be dealt with – this requirement might be removed in future; watch this space.

You also have to remind your employer of whether you’ve made a previous request for flexible working, and if so, when – this is to ensure that you aren’t making a new request within a year of your last one.

You could also add any reasons why you are making the request, such as that you hope to remove a disadvantage you’re suffering because of any protected characteristic (age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation), or to help with childcare or elder care commitments.  Giving reasons will flag up any potential pitfalls for your employer if they refuse or fail to deal properly with your request by indicating that you may have a discrimination claim.

Reduced productivity may be a valid ground for the refusal of flexi working.

What are the reasons for rejecting a flexible working request?

There are 8 set reasons why an employer can refuse your flexible working request ( source):

  • Extra costs that will damage the business
  • The work can’t be reorganised among other staff
  • People can’t be recruited to do the work (eg a job share wouldn’t work)
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce

If none of the above apply, your employer should accept your request.

What happens next?

If your employer has any concerns about how things will work, this can – and really should – be discussed with you in a meeting, to see if you can come to a compromise.  As ever, communication is key.

It’s always worth trying to agree a trial period, long enough to enable both parties to decide if the arrangements are working. The terms of the trial period should be recorded in writing so everyone knows where they stand.

If your request is refused, you will be able to appeal the decision. If your request is granted and involves changes to any contractual terms (working hours/days, pay, duties etc), then a formal amendment letter should be issued to you confirming the new terms.

Employment Law Solicitor

If you need more help with the subjects covered here then do reach out to our expert employment law solicitors.  You can speak to our employment solicitors online via email or call us on 03300 020 863.

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