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.
- 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 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