If you’ve been re-evaluating how, when and where you want to work, it helps to first understand what exactly flexible working is and how you can put together a solid business case to request it from your employer. 

Flexible working: A definition

Flexible working is a broad cluster of working arrangements which give you varying degrees of flexibility over the duration, location, and times you work. There are many types of flexible working arrangements which suit different circumstances, including:

  • Part-time working: Reducing your hours, often by working fewer days a week.
  • Compressed hours: Working full-time hours over fewer days, such as a 9-day fortnight.
  • Flexitime: Choosing when to start and end work, often while maintaining a core set of hours, such as 10am to 4pm every day.
  • Job sharing: Where two people work one job and split the hours.
  • Staggered hours: Where you have different start, finish and break times compared to other workers. This could be beneficial for service or manufacturing staff who can’t work from home but want more flexibility.
  • Hybrid working: Working some of the time remotely and the rest of the time in the physical workplace.

Familiarise yourself with different types of flexible working arrangements and view our latest resources on flexible working, remote working and hybrid working for guidance aimed at helping your line manager understand, buy into, and champion these types of working arrangements. 

Informal flexible working requests 

Not all requests for flexible working need to be formal. Some organisations will allow informal arrangements, either for employees who do not have the right to request flexible working or for temporary, short-term or occasional requirements. Some organisations also offer informal (but not necessarily contractual) approaches to flexible working, such as a hybrid working arrangements. It is a good idea to check with your manager or your organisation’s policy on whether requests need to be formal or informal.  

Even if you are making an informal request, it is still a good idea to set out to your manager the kind of flexible working you are seeking, how long you want such an arrangement if applicable, and how you think the organisation can benefit from and accommodate it. Check out the tips below for making a formal request to help you. 

Making a formal flexible working request

Every employee, regardless of occupation, has the legal right to request flexible working if they have been employed for 26 weeks.  

From 2024, under the Flexible Working Bill, employees will be able to make formal requests for flexible working from the first day of their employment.  

Under the current legislation you should follow the steps below when making your application:  

  • The first step is to submit a formal written request to your employer. The request should include the flexible working patterns you would like to undertake and the date that you would like it to begin. You should also note if you have made a flexible working request previously, and when. 
  • Your employer can accept your request immediately, but often they will schedule a meeting to discuss your request in more detail. They may also talk to you about alternatives to the request you have made. Your employer may allow you to bring someone with you to the meeting such as a trade union representative or work-based colleague. 
  • Before your flexible working meeting, do some research to provide the rationale for the specific type of flexible working arrangement you’re proposing. Identify how it might benefit the organisation, and consider how any potential impacts of the request can be addressed. For example, consider the tasks that you can do at specific hours or those you can do outside of those hours, or if you are interested in a job share opportunity or moving to part-time hours, think about how tasks can be covered at the team level as well as within these jobs. 
  • Consider whether or not you would be willing to undertake a trial of the flexible working arrangements you have requested if this is something your employer offers – this can benefit both parties as it allows the benefits and challenges to be identified. Communicate this to your employer during the discussions. 
  • After the meeting your employer will then assess the advantages and disadvantages of your application and make a decision and communicate this to you. If they are going to reject your request, they must confirm to you which of the statutory reasons they are relying on. These include additional costs or an inability to reorganise the work among other employees.
  • If your request is accepted your employer will usually confirm this to you in writing and agree a start date. If a trial period is agreed, they may also schedule a review period.  

If your request proves unsuccessful, your employer is not required by law to offer an appeal process although Acas recommend that they should. Check your company policy to see what it says about your ability to appeal a decision.
If you do appeal you should set out why you disagree with the decision or why you think it was unfair or unreasonable. If you do not think that your employer followed the law or their own policy, you should also include this in the appeal letter. Make sure to follow any timescales for appeal or other requirements detailed in your organisation’s policy.  

Your employer should finalise the entire process, including an appeal if they allow one, within three months of your application.  

Changes to flexible working legislation 

Under the Flexible Working Bill (expected to come into force in 2024) employees will: 

  • have the right to request flexible working from day one of employment
  • be able to make two formal requests in a 12-month period
  • no longer need to explain how the proposed working pattern will impact their job or employer. 

Under the new Act employers will be required to consult employees before rejecting any flexible working requests and will have to make a decision on any requests within two months. 

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