Flexible Working FAQs

Overview

All employees are free to ask for different working hours. An employer may or may not agree to this.   An additional right (the ‘Statutory Right’) exists for employees with children or adult dependants. Under the Statutory Right the employer must consider the request and can only refuse for one of 9 specified reasons.  Refusal of your request (whether you make it informally or under the Statutory Right) may be indirect sex discrimination unless the employer can show that the refusal is for good business reasons.

What are the options of flexible working?

There is no restriction on what type of flexibility you can request.  It might be:

  •     Reducing your hours;
  •     Job sharing, so that you split the job between you and another person;
  •     Compressed hours (working full time hours but in fewer days);
  •     Working from home for part of the week or day;
  •     Altering the time you work, for example starting and finishing earlier (or later);
  •     Taking a shorter lunch break and leaving earlier;
  •     Term-time working;
  •     Working shorter hours during the day and making up the time in the evening after the children are in bed.  This may be feasible where the job involves report writing or communicating with people in different time zones.·    

If I want to work different or shorter hours what should I do?
 
It is often best to have an informal chat with your manager about whether she or he is likely to agree.  Before doing this consider carefully:

  •     What hours you can work which fit in with your caring responsibilities;
  •     How flexible you can be, for example you may want a 3-day week but would do a 4-day week if that was the only option;
  •     How you would do your job on a 4-day week, for example think about whether all your work be done in 4 days and, if  not, who will cover the 5th day;
  •     If you are going to work shorter hours, will you be available if something urgent arises on your non-working day.

Do I need to put in a formal request for flexible working?

If you cannot agree informally, then you can put in a formal request under the Statutory Right.  This involves completing a standard form.  However, there are some conditions you must satisfy, for example:

  •     You must be an employee;
  •     You must have been working for your employer for 26 weeks, and not applied for flexible working in the previous year;
  •     You must have responsibility for caring for a child aged under 17 or a disabled child under 18, or caring for an adult living with you.

Will the change be permanent?

Yes, usually.  You can ask for flexible working for a limited period but you should make this clear when you make the initial request.

Can I change back to my previous hours?

If your employer has agreed a permanent change of working hours/pattern, you have no right to return to your previous hours and will have to negotiate this with your employer.  It may not be possible because, for example, if your employer has employed someone else to do the work.

Should I ask for a trial period?

If your employer is reluctant to agree to your request, ask for a trial period so that you can show that your proposed working pattern does not disadvantage your employer.

What are my options if my employer refuses to offer the hours that I want?

  •     Appeal under the Statutory Right  procedure;
  •     Put in a grievance;
  •     Bring a claim of  indirect sex discrimination;
  •     Resign and (if you have been employed for 2 years or 1 year if employed before April 2012) bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.  This last option is risky.  If a tribunal do not accept that the refusal was indirect sex discrimination you will simply have resigned and will have no right to compensation.  Specialist advice should be sought before you make this decision. Any claim must be made promptly and no later than 3 months from the date you resign.;·       

I am worried that my employer’s attitude to me might change if I ask for flexible working

You should not be treated badly because you have asked for flexible working.  This would be an unlawful detriment and may be sex discrimination.

If I reduce my hours and I am then made redundant does it affect my redundancy payment?

Yes, probably.  Your redundancy pay is usually based on the number of days/hours you work at the time you are made redundant. So, if you are working 3 days per week instead of 5 days, the redundancy payment will be based on 3 days.

Can my employer refuse to promote me if I am working part-time?

Only if the job to which you are promoted cannot be done part-time. Less favourable treatment of a part-time worker may be unlawful under the Part-time Workers Regulations and also be unlawful indirect sex discrimination.  The question is whether the job to which you may be promoted could be done on a part-time or job share basis.