The UK Rules
Flexible Working Arrangements

How to Request Flexible Working Arrangements

Find out how to request flexible working by making a statutory application. Check out some reasons employers can give to reject flexible working hours and how to appeal.

What is Flexible Working Practices?

It is a method of working that best suits the needs of an employee. It often includes having flexible start and finish times. It can also include working from home.

UK employment laws afford all employees the legal right to request flexible working. Even so, most flexible workers tend to be carers and those who are parenting.

The official term for requesting flexible working arrangements is 'making a statutory application'. But, employees must have already worked for their same employer for at least 26 weeks to qualify.

Dealing with a Request for Flexible Working

Having received a statutory application an employer must deal with it in a 'reasonable manner'. There are several ways employers must use a reasonable manner to handle a request, such as:

Note: Search 'Acas Code Of Practice - Handling In A Reasonable Manner Requests To Work Flexibly' for further guidance.

Employers can refuse to grant an application for flexible working hours. But, they must have a valid business reason for rejecting it. Even so, employees can go to an employment tribunal if the request was not handled in a reasonable manner.

Different Types of Flexible Working

There are various definitions of the term 'flexible working arrangements'. As a rule, it depends on the type of working schedule and adaptations you have agreed with your employer.

It would generally refer to a specified working pattern. Thus, it differs from the standard working patterns of most employees. The most common arrangements for working flexibly include:

Note: The rules and procedures for requesting flexible working arrangements differ in Northern Ireland.

How to Apply for Flexible Working Schedule

Flexible working laws changed in June 2014. The right to adjusted hours of employment only applied to certain qualifying parents. The law got amended since to include flexible working schedules for more workers.

The legal statutory right to request flexible working is now open to all eligible employees. It applies for any given reason or grounds. An employer must consider each request as a separate issue and on a case-by-case basis.

An employee would qualify by serving employment for at least 26 weeks with the same employer. But, you must use the process of 'making a statutory application'. The four basic steps of the process are:

  1. The employee would make a written request to their employer.
  2. The employer would then consider the request and make a decision within three (3) months. It can be longer if it gets agreed with the employee.
  3. As a rule, the employer will agree to the request. If so, they must change the terms and conditions to update the changes in the contract of the employee.
  4. The employer may reject it and disagree with the request for flexible working. In this case, the employer must write to the employee giving valid business reasons for the refusal. The employee can complain to an employment tribunal in some cases.

Note: Employees cannot make more than one application for flexible working each year.

How to Make a Statutory Application

An employee can choose between writing to their employer or they can send the details by email. Employers can ask employees to use 'The right to request flexible working: application form' to make an application.

Information the Letter or Email Must Include

Your employer needs to know what you expect so they can follow the proper procedure. Thus, a flexible working request must be a written submission and contain:

Note: Northern Ireland has different rules on flexibility of working hours, homeworking, and workers' regulations.

How to Withdraw an Application

Withdrawing an application for flexible working arrangements should be in writing. There are some situations where an employer can treat an application as withdrawn. Examples include missing two meetings about the application or appealing without a good reason.

Note: An employer must inform the employee if they treat a request as withdrawn.

Handling a Request after an Application

Employers must use a 'reasonable manner' to consider flexible working requests. As a rule, they should make a decision within three (3) months of the request (some exceptions apply).

Agreeing to an Application

After an agreement the employer should write to the employee with information that shows:

As a rule, they should change an employment contract terms and conditions to get it updated. This should occur without delay but no later than 28 days after the request first got approved.

Valid Reasons for Rejecting an Application

If an employer rejects an application they must inform the employee that they rejected it. A list of valid reasons employers can reject an application includes:

How to Make an Appeal

There is no statutory right to an appeal for employees any longer per se. But, employers use the appeals process as part of handling requests in a 'reasonable manner'.

Even so, an employee must follow the company procedures when appealing a decision. There are several ways to proceed beforehand if a rejected application causes problems. The UK laws of employment say both parties should follow the company procedures for solving a workplace dispute.

Attending an Employment Tribunal

Valid reasons why an employee can complain to an employment tribunal include situations where an employer:

There is a deadline for an employee to complain to an employment tribunal. The appeal should get made within three (3) months of:

Note: The rejection to a request for flexible working 'alone' does not allow employees to complain to a tribunal. Always seek legal advice if you are unsure of your employment rights.

How Flexible Working Affects British Workplaces

More businesses are being encouraged to adopt a less stringent approach to flexible working. This is according to a report by Vrumi, based in London. They came up with an innovative plan to convert daytime room rental into affordable office workspace.

They estimated that around 10 million British workers spend at least half of their working hours at home. That staggering statistic translates into workplaces occupied only around 40% of the time. Thus, 60% of offices are not used during working hours in the United Kingdom.

There is a projected rise in flexible working schedules for more workers. Thus, businesses need to take action which could also help improve a UK-wide 'space crisis'.

How to Request Flexible Working Arrangements by Making a Statutory Application