Applying for Flexible Working: What are my Rights?

Anita North
National Head of Employment

Flexible working has become much more commonplace since the Coronavirus, with many companies deciding to keep flexible working in place despite restrictions lifting.

While some have welcomed the return to offices, others have found remote working to be much better suited to their work-life balance. Employers have the right to ask you to come back to work at any time but you can choose to make a flexible working request.

For example, this could be:

  • Changing your working hours
  • Working compressed hours
  • Going part-time
  • Working from home
  • Job sharing
  • Flexible hours (known as ‘flexitime’)
  • Changing your start and finish time

This could be a permanent change or just for a temporary period e.g. school term time.

Do I have the right to make a request? 

In England and Wales, you have the right to make a flexible working request if:

  • You’ve been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • You’re classed as an employee by law
  • You haven’t made any other flexible working request in the last 12 months

Once you’ve submitted your request, your employer is legally required to consider your application fairly and in line with the Acas Code of Practice. They must then give you their decision within 3 months.

Even if you don’t meet the above criteria, your employer might still accept an informal flexible working request. You should check your workplace policy to see what your options are.

How to make a request for flexible working 

You can choose to either submit a formal statutory request for flexible working or a non-statutory request.

Statutory requests

A flexible working statutory request must:

  • Be in writing
  • Include the date
  • Specify the change you want to make to your working pattern
  • State the date you want your new working pattern to start
  • Explain why you’re making the request e.g. child care arrangements
  • Include the date of any other previous working requests you’ve made

Optional things you might want to include are:

  • How the change could benefit your colleagues e.g. job sharing
  • How the change could benefit the business e.g. cost saving
  • Suggestions for how the work could be managed around your new hours

Once you’ve submitted your flexible working request, your employer will usually set up a meeting to discuss your request. You can choose to bring someone to this meeting such as a Trade Union representative or a colleague.

Your employer will then review your request and make a decision within 3 months. If they approve your flexible working request, you should ask for this in writing.

It should set out:

  • The agreed changes to your working pattern
  • When your new working pattern will start
  • The length of time it will last
  • A date for reviewing the change

If your working hours, pay, location of work or your holiday entitlement has changed, then your employer is legally required to put this in writing within a month of the change coming into place.

Non-statutory requests 

If you’re looking to make a non-statutory request, there is no set format for how this should be done but it’s usually a good idea to still submit this in writing and date it. One advantage of a non-statutory request is that it can submitted at any time and you don’t have to wait 12 months before submitting another one.

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What if I’ve been Discriminated Against? 

It’s against the law for your employer to reject your request if they do so for a discriminatory reason, for example, because of your age, sex, race or gender reassignment. But they are allowed to turn down your request if they have a valid business reason.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against by your employer, you could appeal their decision. Get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors if you want to find out more about discrimination at work.

Mother Awarded £185,000 after being Refused 5pm Finish 

Former estate agent, Alice Thompson, recently hit the headlines after she was awarded £185,000 by an Employment Tribunal who ruled that she’d suffered indirect sex discrimination.

On her return from maternity leave, Ms Thompson asked her employer if she could reduce her hours to working 4 days a week and finishing at 5pm instead of 6pm so she could collect her daughter from nursery.

Her manager refused her flexible working request on the basis that the company couldn’t afford for her to go part-time, but the Tribunal ruled that her employer failed to properly consider Ms Thompson’s flexible working request.

What Could This Mean for the Future of Flexible Working?

“This case highlights the fact that an Employee can take legal action against their Employer, where the legal requirements regarding flexible working requests have not been followed,” says Anita North, Employment Law Solicitor.

“If an Employee has their request for flexible working refused, is dismissed because of making the request, or is forced to resign, as in Ms Thompson’s case, the Employee should always consider their legal position.

“A recent YouGov survey commissioned by Acas found that half of Employers in Great Britain are expecting to receive more requests for flexible working, compared to the number of requests received before the pandemic hit. This could also mean a rise in legal action being taken against Employers, where the correct procedures have not been followed.”

Anita North Employment Law Solicitor
Anita North

If you’d like advice about discrimination in the workplace or bringing a claim against your employer at an Employment Tribunal, get in touch with our Employment Solicitors free confidential legal advice.

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