How Do I Ask For Flexible Working?

Posted: Friday May 20 2022

By: Abbie Coleman

Looking at different types of flexible working has been given careful consideration by many working mums and dads.

How Do I Ask For Flexible Working?

Looking at different types of flexible working has been given careful consideration by many working mums and dads. The desire for a better work-life balance is very appealing to a lot of working parents, especially when this could also come with the added financial benefit of reducing childcare costs and stresses on the family in general and during the school holidays or inset days. But what is the best way to achieve this

There can often be push back from some employers regarding the needs of the business for such requests for employee’s needs, but often employers see there are many sound business reasons for such a flexible working model.

You have recently returned to work after maternity leave or are you about to? Or maybe your circumstances have changed and you now need to be able to pick your children up after school or you need to be able to work staggered hours, a different work pattern from before. Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this article, you have probably decided that you wish to consider and even put forward a formal request for flexible working with your line manager. Please note this information refers to the current legislation of the UK government but does not apply in Northern Ireland.

In this article, you will find some great advice on how to make a formal flexible working request and the process that should be followed once a # request is made from our employment law blogger Katie Ash from Banner Jones, who supports our readers, both employers and employees, with all things employment law for your legal advice.

katie ash director and head of employment banner jones

Katie Ash Banner Jones Head of Employment Law

Firstly it’s a good idea to identify what you are looking for in your new arrangements, and what is the best solution for you when working flexibly. There’s a whole myriad of options when considering flexible working and you need to think about what are you looking for in a flexible working arrangement. Do you wish to reduce your hours, compress your hours, job share, have part-time hours, work from home, and have a flexible start time and finish time? Yes, these are all flexible working options, so there are lots to consider when looking at a flexible working arrangement.

Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you could consider approaching your employer on an informal basis to see whether they would consider your proposals without needing to make a formal application. Some employers are happy to do this, although as there is a limit on the number of applications that can be made if a formal process is undertaken, many employers will ask an employee to make a formal application in any event; even if they are minded to approve the request. The reason for this is that an employee (with qualifying service (see further below)) can only make one flexible application per year. If only an informal process is used, there is no limit to the number of applications that can be made.

It’s worth looking to see if your employer has a flexible working policy as this will give guidance on whether informal applications will be considered; and if not, what the formal process will look like. It’s great if your employer has a flexible working policy. However, ACAS has a Code of Practice that should be followed when an application for flexible working is made by an employee with the qualifying amount of service; and you should consider this alongside your employer’s policy (if they have one) to make sure that everything is being done in accordance with the statutory flexible working procedure laid out in the ACAS Code of Practice.

So let us talk you through the flexible working process. You may also hear this referred to as making a statutory flexible working application.

Can I put in a formal working flexible working request?

Only qualifying employees can make a statutory application for flexible working. In order to be a qualifying employee, you must:

  • Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • Be legally classed as an employee
  • Not have made a previous application for flexible working request in the last 12-months

However, do check your employer’s workplace policy as some employers will allow you to put a flexible working request in even if the above doesn’t apply to you. Its’ always worth checking the flexible working policy of your employer.

Only parents and carers used to be able to make a statutory application for flexible working. However, the law changed a few years ago and now any employee with at least 26 weeks’ service can apply for flexible working once per year.

What can I ask for?

As explained above, flexible working covers  lots of different types of working patterns, including;

  • Days of work
  • Specific start and finish times
  • Compressed hours
  • School term time hours
  • remote working or home working

So, you’ve established that you fit the criteria to apply and know what you would like to request, so what do you do next?

The ACAS Code of Practice sets out the process that should be followed by you and your employer in detail, but the basic steps are:

1/. Put your flexible working request in writing and send it to your employer, making sure it has the prescribed information in it as set out in the ACAS Code of Practice. Essentially, this means setting out the change that you’re seeking, when you would like this to start and how you think your employer can deal with the impact of the change. You also have to state if you’ve made an application before (if so, confirm the date(s)); and if your request relates to something covered by discrimination law, for example, to make a reasonable adjustment for a disability you have, then you have to set this out too. Oh, and don’t forget to date your application!

2/. Your employer has to act in a reasonable manner when considering your flexible working request, and that is why they have three months to consider and make a decision and explain this decision. This period can be extended with your permission and agreement. The three-month period should also include any appeal process.

3/. If your employer agrees, you then need to ensure your employment contract is amended. This will be a permanent change unless you have agreed otherwise, for example by agreeing to a trial.

4/. If your employer disagrees, they must write to you giving a genuine business reason for the refusal. And the reason must fall within one of the eight permitted reasons. Dependent on the reasons given or the process followed, you may have the ability to bring a complaint to an employment tribunal for failure to follow the statutory process and also possibly for unlawful discrimination.

Whilst the ACAS Code of Practice sets out the detail of the process, we would always advise you to seek professional advice when needed.

What if I change my mind or something changes? Is it too late to take it back?

If you decide that you no longer wish to proceed with your request, you will need to put this in writing to your employer. Should you miss two meetings with your employer to discuss your request or appeal without good reason, your employer can class your application as withdrawn.

So your letter is to your employer, and we wish you the best of luck with your request for a flexible work arrangement, if you need any help or assistance at any point don’t hesitate to contact Banner Jones. But what happens next? Read our article on the process of the flexible working request, including any appeals and what to do if your flexible working request is refused.