Requesting flexible working (UK)
According to Statistics NZ. more than 50% of employees in New Zealand have flexible work hours, allowing them to start and finish work at different times each day, and one-third have worked from home.
It may come as a surprise to also inform you that in the UK, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’. Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.
What employers must do
As an employer, you must deal with each flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include:
- Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
- Holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
- Offering an appeal process
If the flexible working request is not handled in a reasonable manner, the employee can the employer to an employment tribunal.
An employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.
Types of flexible working
There are different ways of working flexibly.
Job sharing: Two people do one job and split the hours.
Remote Working: It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
Part-time: Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
Compressed hours: Working full-time hours but over fewer days.
Flexitime: The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, for example 10am to 4pm every day.
Annualized hours: The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.
Staggered hours: You may have a different start, finish and break times from your coworkers.
Phased retirement: Default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part-time.
Requesting Flexible Working
There are two ways you can request flexible working:
- Statutory request
- Non-statutory request.
You can make this request under the law on flexible working. As with any law, there is a process set out in which you and your employer need to follow when you’re negotiating your flexible working request.
The statutory process you will need to follow:
- Firstly, the employee will need to make a flexible working request in writing
- The employee can only make one flexible working request in any 12-month period
- Every employer must consider the request seriously, and complete the whole process (including dealing with any appeal) within three months. The employee must give a good reason why the request can’t be met.
- Only certain employees are entitled to make a statutory request.
If you are in a position where you are not entitled to make a statutory request for flexible working, you can make a non-statutory request, however, this is one which is not made under the law on flexible working. As it is not made under the law, there is therefore no set procedure for making a request. Although it is advisable to make your request in writing so that it is clear what you have asked for.
Your employer may also have their own scheme with its own rules which may be more generous than the statutory scheme. For example, it may be open to all employees regardless of how long they have worked for your employer.
Even if you can make a statutory request, you may wish to make a non-statutory request instead if, for example, the change you’re asking for is minor or temporary.
To have the statutory right to ask for flexible working arrangements, you must: be an employee and have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks at the date on which you make your application. In addition, you must not be:
- a member of the armed forces
- an agency worker (excluding those returning from parental leave)
- be an employee shareholder (excluding those returning from parental leave)
- have asked for flexible working within the previous twelve months, whether your request was agreed to or not
To learn more about UK flexible working guidelines, please click here.