If you want to work flexibly, you have the right to ask your employer if you can do this. However, your employer doesn’t have to agree to your request. Find out when they can refuse and what you can do.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working means you don’t work normal office hours or that you don’t work full time. It can mean:
- Working part time.
- Working from home; some or all of the time.
- Sharing your job with someone else.
- Working longer days – but fewer of them.
- Working different hours to the ones you’re supposed to.
- Working ‘annualised hours’, which means you work a set number of hours over the year (which may be made up of ‘core hours’ which you have to work at a certain time), with some control over when you work.
- Phased retirement; which means that you can reduce your hours and work part time in the lead up to your retirement.
Who can ask for flexible working?
From June 30th 2014, you have had the right to ask if you can work flexibly, as long as you have worked for your employer for six months without a break. You must be employed by them or on a fixed-term contract. It doesn’t count if you are employed by an agency or if you’re self employed.
SAVVY TIP: You can only make one request to work flexibly every twelve months.
Why your employer can say no
Your employer must consider your request to work flexibly in a ‘reasonable manner’. But that doesn’t mean they’re under any obligation to agree to it.
They can turn down your request on one – or more – of eight business grounds, which are that you working flexibly:
- Would mean extra costs that would be very hard for the business to bear.
- Would mean the work couldn’t be reorganised between other staff.
- Would be impossible because the business couldn’t recruit extra staff.
- Would affect the quality of the work.
- Would affect the performance of the business.
- Would affect the business’s ability to meet customer demand.
- Couldn’t be accommodated because of planned changes to the way the business operates.
- Could not be accommodated because there wasn’t enough work during the periods you wanted to work.
SAVVY TIP: You must be told whether or not your request is successful within three months and if your employer agrees with your request to work flexibly, it will become a permanent change to your contract of employment.
If your request is refused
You don’t have the automatic right to appeal against a request to work flexibly that’s been refused, but your employer should allow it if you don’t think your request was handled fairly.
Will your employer say yes?
Some types of business are more accepting of a flexible working culture (technology firms, for example). Larger businesses may find it easier to accommodate flexible working. Whether or not you’re likely to be able to work flexibly will also depend on how many of your colleagues ask for it. If you work in a small business, every time one person gets permission to work flexibly, it could make it less likely that others will be able to do so as it may be harder to accommodate.
SAVVY TIP: Your employer isn’t obliged to let you work flexibly just because they’ve agreed to someone else’s request.
Flexible working requests and discrimination
Although your employer can turn down your request it can’t discriminate against you. The organisation ACAS has produced some guidelines which explain when refusing someone’s request to work flexibly may be discriminatory on the basis of their disability, gender etc.
There’s a guide to applying for flexible working on the ACAS website.
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