Flexible Working

Flexible working has been in the news with a number of new reports recently. The latest being the CIPD/KMPG Labour Market Outlook (LMO) which concluded that whilst the much-heralded revolution in home-working is yet to take place, a quarter of UK employers say that home-working will increase in their organisation in the next year. So could you benefit from Flexible working? Joanne Moss of BusinessHR Solutions explains the ins and outs.

By Joanne Moss

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is an agreement between you and your employer where a different working pattern is adopted. Anyone can ask their employer for flexible working, however, currently, there is only a legal obligation on employers to seriously consider requests for flexible working from parents with young (under age 6) or disabled children (up to age 18), or those with caring responsibilities. Although, the Government is currently looking at plans to extend flexible working to parents of older children

Such agreements, designed to help employees manage their work-life balance to best meet their needs and aspirations include:

  • flexi-time
  • staggered hours
  • time off in lieu
  • compressed working hours
  • shift swapping
  • self-rostering
  • annualised hours
  • job-sharing
  • part-time working
  • term-time working
  • homeworking
  • tele-working
  • breaks from work - including unpaid sabbaticals, or career break schemes.

The most common of these are part-time work, job sharing and flexitime. Many of these offer non-financial benefits which give you greater control of your life, and enable a more satisfactory lifestyle to be achieved.

Anyone can ask for flexible working, however in order for your employer to have a ‘legal’ right to consider your request, you need to check you qualify.

Do I qualify for flexible working?

In order to qualify you must:

  • have completed at least 26 weeks' continuous service at the date the request is made
  • make the application no later than the day before your child's 6th birthday (18th birthday in the case of a disabled child)
  • be the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent of the child, or be married to, or the partner of, such a person
  • have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • be making the application to enable you to care for the child
  • not be an agency worker
  • not be a member of the armed forces
  • not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past twelve months (regardless of the outcome).

How can I arrange to work flexibly?

Ask your employer! Check your own employer’s policies and procedures as they should give you information about flexible working. If not, see the link at the bottom of the page to the BusinessHR website for more information and how you can set up a scheme, and download a flexible working request form.

Once you have put your request in writing, if your employer is happy to accept your request, then they will confirm this in writing to you. If they want to discuss the request with you first, they will invite you to attend a meeting, this should be done within 28 days of them receiving your request. You will be given the opportunity to bring a work colleague with you. Be prepared to give suggestions as to how your request will work in practice, ie if you are requesting to work part time – how will the other hours be covered? Is anyone else in your team willing to work extra hours to cover your work?

To improve the chances of success, the working pattern should be carefully planned; client requirements considered and cover during opening hours and breaks taken into consideration.

Your employer will consider your request and confirm to you if the request is granted – this will be in writing within 14 days of the meeting.

If your request is refused, your employer must give a specific reason for doing so (see ‘Where can I find more information?).

If your request is refused, you can appeal against the decision. You should do this in writing within 14 days. State why you think the decision was unfair. You will then be invited to a further meeting to discuss this. This will normally be with someone not involved in the initial decision.

What are the benefits?
The benefits include (you can use these to help your case for flexible working!)

  • enhanced job satisfaction = more motivated employees = less employees looking for alternative employment
  • increased productivity
  • better timekeeping - if people can fit their working time around outside commitments (eg the school run, rush hour traffic) their ability to arrive "on time" may be enhanced
  • lower costs for the employer - the introduction of some form of flexitime system has actually decreased costs - time which was previously spent attending appointments, taking long lunch hours, etc is now taken in the employee's own time and is no longer working time. In addition, by having a "bank" of worked hours, this can reduce overtime payments - overtime is worked to meet the demands of the job but may not be automatically paid until, for example, the end of each quarter, and it may be that the employee prefers to take the time in lieu.
  • reduced casual absenteeism - in some environments employees take time off sick when they are not actually ill - in order to look after children, deal with personal or family emergencies, catch up on domestic issues etc. If employees can take this time off legitimately, they may well do so instead of "pulling a sickie".

The legal bit

Parents of young or disabled children, and employees with caring responsibilities, have the right to request flexible working arrangements. However it should be noted that the right is to "request": there is no automatic right to work flexibly as there will always be circumstances where your employer is unable to accommodate a request. Government figures show that 91% of workplaces receiving requests for flexible working in the last year approved them.

The government is proposing that the legal right to request flexible working is extended to those with children up to the age of 16, likely to come into force in April 2009 – watch this space!

Where can I find more information?

Check your Company policies and procedures

Read the guide: http://www.businesshr.net/docs/legal/flexible.html

Surveys & Reports:



Joanne Moss is an HR Advisor at BusinessHR Ltd. With extensive experience in employment law/HR advisory service, Jo advises companies on a range of employment issues. She also designs and delivers seminars and training events across the UK.

Share this page with your friends


Share this page with your friends.