Flexible Working – Why Do Parents Fear Asking For It?


The Law Of… knowing your employment rights

In a modern age where life outside of work is just as hectic, flexible working hours can be a godsend for some parents.

But, recent research has shown that working parents – specifically fathers – in the UK are afraid of bringing up the subject with their employers, even though employees have a legal right to request flexible working:

  • Twice the number of fathers compared to mothers believe that flexible workers are seen as less committed by their employers
  • Over double the number of fathers think that working flexibly will even damage their careers

If you're thinking about asking your employer for flexible working, Deana Bates, Solicitor in Employment Law, explains what you need to know.

What Is Flexible Working?

Flexible working arrangements allow employees to adapt their working patterns so that they can balance their commitments inside and outside of work.

It's particularly beneficial for parents, who can find it hard to juggle work and family responsibilities.

Who Can Apply?

Provided you have worked continuously for your employer for at least 26 weeks, all employees – including those who aren't parents – can make a request for flexible working.

Keep in mind that if you've applied for a change to your working hours in the last 12 months you can't make another request.

All employers have to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and provide a response within a 3-month time period, but it is important to note that they can refuse your application if they have a valid business reason for doing so.

What Types Of Flexible Working Can I Ask My Employer For?

You can ask your employer for changes to:

  • The number of hours you work
  • The times when you are required to work
  • The place at which you usually carry out your work

Some practical examples of the most common types of flexible working requests include: 

  • Flexitime – this lets you have more control over your working hours. Flexitime can vary in different businesses – some might have core hours that they'll expect employees to do whilst others might allow a greater degree of flexibility in when you start and finish work.
  • Changing from full-time to part-time work – depending on your circumstances, you could consider reducing your working hours. Note that if you ask for part-time working hours your employer can't treat you less favourably than a full-time employee who's doing the same role or similar work.
  • Job sharing – sharing the responsibility of a full-time role between yourself and at least one other colleague might be a suitable option, where you could each work on designated days or alternate weeks.
  • Compressed hours – you could make a request to compress your hours, where you'd either work your usual hours in fewer and/or longer blocks in the week. By starting work early and/or finishing late, you can build up extra hours that you can take as leave from work.
  • Working from home – swapping the office for remote working might be another alternative to consider asking for if you need to stay close to home. The type of agreement you reach depends on the type of role you have, for example you might be able to carry out your work entirely from home and only come into the office for meetings or it might be more appropriate for you to split your time between your home and the office.
  • Term-time working – this gives you the chance to work during the term time and take your leave – which is usually unpaid – during the school holidays.

How Can I Make A Request For Flexible Working Hours?

All requests for flexible working should be made in writing, and you should:

  • Add the date on which your application is being made
  • State that you are making a formal statutory flexible working request
  • State the changes to your role that you're asking for and when you'd like the changes to take effect
  • Discuss how you think the changes might impact your employer and how they can overcome this
  • Include details on whether you've requested flexible working in the past and when this application was made

Employers have to consider and make a decision about all requests and appeals within 3 months of receiving the request, unless you have agreed otherwise.

Is Flexible Working Beneficial To Employers?

Although employers might not realise it, embracing flexible working policies can help their businesses stand out from the competition when it comes to performance and growth.

A positive approach to flexible working can:

  • Increase the staff retention rate and an employee's commitment to the business
  • Enhance productivity rates
  • Keep talent within the business
  • Promote the company as family friendly, helping to attract new talent
  • Increase employees' morale
  • Lower sickness absence rates
  • Ensure employees feel valued

What Can I Do If My Request Is Refused?

If you find that your request has been denied, you can:

  • Speak to your employer about the reasons behind their decision, and consider whether you want to make an appeal
  • Get in touch with your trade union representative, if you're a member, about your situation
  • Contact our Employment solicitors if you believe that your request was rejected on discriminatory grounds and/or you would like assistance with drafting your appeal letter

How Can Simpson Millar Help Me?

The reality is that nowadays working fathers want to be involved in caring for their children, and it's important for employers to have the right mechanisms in place that support them. 

We offer working parents employment advice and assistance on a regular basis, and know how frustrating it can be when a flexible working request is refused on unfair grounds and the impact that refusal can essentially have on the employee.

If your employer hasn't followed the correct process when considering your application or has not provided one of the 8 business reasons for rejecting your request, or you need legal advice on appealing their decision, our Employment Law solicitors will help secure the best outcome for you. 

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