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Flexible working

Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone - employers, employees and their families. Most employers now recognise that it makes good business sense to provide flexible working opportunities for their staff.

What is flexible working?

'Flexible working' is a phrase that describes any working pattern adapted to suit your needs. Common types of flexible working are:

  • part-time: working less than the normal hours, perhaps by working fewer days per week
  • flexi-time: choosing when to work (there's usually a core period during which you have to work)
  • annualised hours: your hours are worked out over a year (often set shifts with you deciding when to work the other hours)
  • compressed hours: working your agreed hours over fewer days
  • staggered hours: different starting, break and finishing times for employees in the same workplace
  • job sharing: sharing a job designed for one person with someone else
  • home working: working from home

Remember, this list is not exhaustive and there may be other forms of flexible working that are better suited to you and your employer.

Who can ask for it?

Anyone can ask their employer for flexible work arrangements, but the law provides some employees with the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern.

You must:

  • be an employee, but not an agency worker or in the armed forces
  • have worked for your employer for 26 weeks' continuously before applying
  • not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months

You will then have the statutory right to ask if you:

  • have or expect to have parental responsibility of a child aged 16 or under or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • are the parent/guardian/special guardian/foster parent/private foster carer or as the holder of a residence order or the spouse, partner or civil partner of one of these and are applying to care for the child
  • are a carer who cares, or expects to be caring, for an adult who is a spouse, partner, civil partner or relative; or who although not related to you, lives at the same address as you
  • Under the law your employer must seriously consider any application you make, and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so. You have the right to ask for flexible working - not the right to have it.

Employees who do not have the legal right to request flexible working are, of course, free to ask their employer if they can work flexibly. Many employers are willing to consider such requests.

How to apply

If you have the statutory right to apply, then there is a process you must follow.

The process of making a request and your employer considering it can take up to 14 weeks. So if you are thinking about changing your work pattern, speak to your employer as early as possible.

You should also be aware that if your employer agrees to your request, then it may result in a permanent change to your contract of employment.

If you do not have the right to request flexible working then the statutory process will still be helpful to you and you should consider speaking to your employer as early as possible.

Other rights

Other rights that help you take time off work to care for others are:

  • parental leave, where you can book blocks of unpaid time off to care for young children
  • time off for dependants, which gives you unpaid time off to cope with family emergencies

For more information on flexible working patterns go to www.direct.gov.uk

Comments

I worked for a charity for 12 years with allegedly family friendly policies, they weren't very flexible and I was actually told on one occasion that flexibility was for their benefit not mine - following the birth of my last baby I have not returned to work as I would have been working for nothing. The irony is my husband is a manager in a day nursery!
I am due back at work January 2013 i am going back part time witch my employer knows and told him i would no longer work on a saturday due to no childcare to witch he has wrote me a letter saying he will work around me and my child but to witch he later writes i must work Friday & Saturday I am just wondering if he can make me do this or does he have to work around me and what is best for my child?
I too have found in my own, and others, experience that most companies say they'll consider flexible working but are actually NOT accommodating it. I have now returned back to work, full time five days a week. Yes I love my job but I do not want to regret missing out on spending time with my 16 month old daughter. I am now looking for another job, closer to home (I travel up to an hour and half each day and another reason why I would have like to cut down or be more flexible!) with better working hours. I have been with the same company for over 10 years and they will lose a valuable member of staff. P.s. I actually work for a charity although their behaviour is not very charitable!
I too have found in my own, and others, experience that most companies say they'll consider flexible working but are actually NOT accommodating it. I have now returned back to work, full time five days a week. Yes I love my job but I do not want to regret missing out on spending time with my 16 month old daughter. I am now looking for another job, closer to home (I travel up to an hour and half each day and another reason why I would have like to cut down or be more flexible!) with better working hours. I have been with the same company for over 10 years and they will lose a valuable member of staff. P.s. I actually work for a charity although their behaviour is not very charitable!
I currently work 4 days a week which is perfect for my family. I have a 15 month old and also have flexi-time as an option. However, I am due to be made redundant in March, after which (to retain redundancy pay - which I need), I then cant work for a month and a day. This will mean that I have broken my employment pattern, and therefore will not be entitled to ask for flexible working hours in my new job. Is this right? I will be employed as a teacher, hopefully pretty soon after redundancy - how does this affect things? I am worried now as I didnt appreciate this would be the case!
Hi there, well flexible working is all and good but it will only be considered as long as your line managers want it to be unfortunately. My husband works off shore and therefore I am unable to work for one week in five as I have no childcare(I work 12 hr shifts as a nurse day or night and no child minder will watch for that long) I only work one shift per week so I applied to work using the flexible working policy to work in a 5 week period one week of 2 days, 3 weeks of 1 shift per week and no shifts for the week my husband is away. I work for Lothian NHS as a nurse and my line manager has refused this saying it did not fit into the ward and could cost the ward extra money. Both of these are an excuse and certainly not a concrete reason to refuse my application but they are setting a presidence to all coming back from Mat leave to say that you can't get what you want. Very much the case is that they do not like part time workers which is very sad considering I have worked for 15 years in the NHS with 11 of them in the speciality I am in now where I will have to consider leaving for the welfare of my 2 young boys. Thanks NHS - you most certainly not a caring profession.
I applied for flexible hours also working four days a week as I had no one to care for my daughter 1 day a week & didnt want to incur the costs of a child minder as Grandparents share the care for 4 days of the week to keep costs down until my daughter is over 2 & able to go to play group full time & I got this refused as they had already made someone in the department go to working 5 days a week on school hours, I have since been forced to go back working 5 days a week from 9-3.30 which is just over 32.5 hours a week but working 9-5 was 32 hours a week so they have only gained half an hour per week & they reasoning was that because they had made someone else go 5 days a week they couldnt set a precident but they had allowed the other 2 members of the staff work 3 days a week for 3 years so they had spent time with their child while they were a toddler & they only started working 5 days a week when their children were in school which myself I feel is very unfair & unflexible, they have given their reasoning that it doesnt suit their business for me to work 4 days a week & it is now costing me £100 & £125 a month to have my daughter go to a child minder so I feel that I am working to pay for child care & has left me demotivated & considering looking for something else more flexible, cant these companies understand that its hard enough trying to juggle work & home life without them throwing up these reasons & the manager that made the decision is a family man but is on the type of money were his wife doesnt have to return to work, I dont have that luxury, I wish I did