The conclusive guide to requesting flexible working hours
Reading time - 6 minutes

The conclusive guide to requesting flexible working hours

10th December 2015
By Candice Choo

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re pro-flexible working. Modern business is an ever-evolving organism, and businesses that want to keep up with the latest best practices have to accept that the 9-to-5 should be resigned to the past (and after-work karaoke sessions).
Previously, only workers with children aged up to 17 (or 18 for disabled children), or carers for adult dependants were legally entitled to request flexible working hours. However, since 30th June 2014, all workers have been given that right.
If you’re thinking about requesting flexible working hours, but you’re not sure how to approach it, never fear. We’re here to guide you through everything you might need to know to help you have the confidence to request working times and styles that better suit your lifestyle.
So, what is flexible working?
The term “flexible working” actually covers quite a range of variants. Essentially, it’s any type of working structure that alters the pattern of your working day or week. This includes altering a full-time position to a part-time position; changing your working hours, which includes start and end time, working additional hours one day to have reduced hours another, and so on; sharing your job role with another person, and even remotely working from home for some or all of your working days.
If you’re looking to alter your working week to include any of these factors, then you’ll want to request flexible working with your employer. Before changes to legislation, there was nothing to stop you from requesting these changes, but legally, employers didn’t have to consider them for all workers. Now if you submit a request, they do.
How do I qualify for flexible working?
You’re more than welcome to simply have a chat with your employer and express your thoughts, but to ensure you’re enacting your rights according to the legislation, you’ll need to make a “statutory application”.
You can make a non-statutory request, which gives you more flexibility (which we’ll cover later on), but means you’re not enacting your legal rights, and therefore your employer won’t have to take your request into ‘reasonable consideration’.
To get the ball rolling, you’ll need to write a letter to your employer requesting flexible working. To ensure that it complies with a lawful statutory request, you’ll have to include a number of elements. The letter must be in writing, dated and explicitly say that it is a statutory request for flexible working.
Now you’ve got the bare bones, it’s time to add the meat. Start out by setting out the working pattern you want to request and include a date for it to begin. It’s important to make this as clear as possible, so try and keep it simple. You can also provide different options if you’d like, as this can help your case if your employer won’t allow one type of flexible working, but can accommodate another.
You’ll next have to address how you think this could affect both your employer and fellow workers, even if it’s negatively. Follow this with a suggestion as to how you propose these issues can be resolved (this part isn’t only necessary, but highlights to your employer that you have thought this through, and considered the wider company as well as yourself).
Finally, you’ll need to say whether you’ve applied for flexible working before and, if so, when you made the request.
The above are all of the elements you absolutely need to include, but there are additional details you can also add that may help your case. If you’re applying because you’re disadvantaged by something such as age, race, disability, etc., then include this. Additionally, it can help to explain why you’re requesting flexible working from both a personal and professional perspective, but if this makes you uncomfortable, it’s not a necessity.
What happens next?
Once you’ve submitted your letter, you just have to wait. Your employer has three months to consider your request, then they have to take one of two actions.
If your request is accepted, your contract must be changed to reflect the adjustments to your working structure. Your employer will need to write to you explaining that they’ve accepted the changes and stating the date for the new structure to begin.
If your request isn’t accepted, your employer will need to write to you to explain it’s been declined and explain what their business reasons are for declining your request. This means they can’t just decline you because they don’t fancy it, but they can for reasons that they feel will negatively impact the business.
The range of reasons that are legally acceptable have been outlined by the government, so you’re protected against unfair rejection.
What should I do if I’m declined?
If your request wasn’t accepted, there aren’t any statutory rights to aid you, but most good employers should offer you the opportunity to appeal. You’ll need to check out what your employer’s appeal processes are and follow them accordingly.
If you feel that your request wasn’t handled reasonably; you were wrongly treated; you were dismissed or treated poorly as a result of the request, or you were rejected based on incorrect facts, you can complain to an employment tribunal. This needs to be made within three months of the rejection, and is a formal complaint your HR department will have to note.
It’s important to remember though that once you’ve made a statutory request, you can’t make another for one year.
Are there any other ways to request?
As we mentioned earlier, you can make a non-statutory request. The biggest perk of this is that you can make a request as often as you like, but you’re not protected by any legislation. You also don’t have to meet any criteria according to the law, and it’s a good option if you’re looking to try out a new pattern without making a permanent change to your contract.
There’s no formal way to apply for this type of request, but you can do so in writing (including the core elements outlined above) or you can even do it verbally if you feel comfortable doing so.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about applying for flexible working. If you’ve been considering it for a while, now that you’re armed with this knowledge, it could be time to take the plunge and set out the working hours and styles that work for you!
If you want to find out more, download our Ultimate Guides to Flexible Working for Employees and Employers here.