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Flexible working

Discuss your flexible working rights with one of our employment solicitors

If you have 26 weeks’ continuous employment you have the right to request flexible working from your employer, even if you’re not a parent or carer. While your employer isn’t obligated to approve it, they must deal with it in a reasonable manner. If they fail to do so, you may be able to make a claim.

A refusal of flexible working could also give rise to a discrimination claim. For example, if a female employee asks to work flexibly to combine work and childcare, it may be an example of indirect sex discrimination if refused.

Our specialist team of flexible working solicitors have successfully represented both female and male clients who are making or have had flexible working applications refused. Get in touch today for our impartial flexible working advice and help starting a claim.

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Flexible working law

  • According to the 2014 Flexible Working Regulations, anyone who has worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more can apply for flexible working. An application must fulfil certain criteria which our team of flexible working solicitors can assist you in drafting.

You can also download a ‘right to request flexible working’ application form from the UK government website.

The legal process for flexible working applications

To be considered for flexible working, you must make a statutory application, although you can only make one application per year. This application should be a written letter or email and include:

  • Date – so you have a time stamp for when your employer must reply.
  • Change – what hours/shifts you currently work and the hours/shifts you would like.
  • Timings – the date from when you want to see these changes implemented.
  • Effects – how will this affect your work/the business and any ways of dealing with it.
  • Previous requests – include the dates of any previous requests you have made.

It may help to include any benefits of this change, such as saving the business money or helping another employee who wants to job share.

Your employer’s legal obligations

Once your employer has received your application, they have three months to consider and respond to your request, including any appeal. Your employer must deal with your request in a reasonable manner which may include arranging a meeting with you to discuss your request, allowing you to be accompanied at the meeting and carefully considering the benefits against any adverse impact of the request if implemented.

If your request is refused it should be for one of the following statutory grounds:

  • It will cost too much.
  • They cannot reorganise the work among other employees.
  • It will negatively impact quality and/or performance.
  • They cannot hire more staff.
  • The business won’t be able to meet customer demand.
  • There isn’t enough work to do during the proposed new timings.
  • There are planned structural changes to the business that will affect workforce.

Your application may also be refused if you are not eligible to make the request.

If your request is accepted this will be a contractual variation to your employment and it would be good practice to be provided with an updated contract. The variation will be permanent, unless agreed otherwise.

It is possible for your employer to offer a trial period before accepting your request which should be recorded in writing.

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Types of flexible working

There are different types of flexible working depending on your industry, role and the changes you want to see. This can include:

  • Working from home – you do some or all your work from a different location, such as a home office.
  • Compressed hours – you work the same number of hours but across fewer days.
  • Flexitime – you choose when you start and finish work. Usually this is before 10am and after 4pm.
  • Job share – two people share one role and split the hours between them.
  • Part-time – you reduce your weekly hours or days of working.
  • Staggered hours – you start, break and finish at different times to your colleagues.
  • Phased retirement – you start reducing your hours slowly, eventually phasing out at retirement age.
  • Term-time – you have a block of time off to spend school holidays with your children.

How to make a flexible working claim

If you believe your flexible working request was unfairly refused, you could claim against your employer. This includes instances where your employer:

  • Failed to respond to your request in the allotted time.
  • Didn’t follow the statutory procedures for your application e.g., refused your application for a reason which is not one of the statutory grounds.
  • Dismissed your request without good reason – this can often fall under discrimination.
  • Refused to offer you a pay rise or promotion because you requested flexible working – another possible example of discrimination.

Before making a flexible working claim, it’s beneficial to try and mitigate the situation with your employer. This may include asking for an appeal and holding a meeting to see if a compromise can be met.

You should also gather any evidence to support your claim, such as emails between yourself and your employer. When you’re ready, get in touch with a specialist flexible working solicitor at Leigh Day to discuss your case and the best way forward.

We can help clients challenge flexible working refusals to encourage employers to change their decisions and maintain the working relationship. If that’s not possible, we can advise you on the whether the refusal was unlawful and how best way to secure compensation.

Flexible working FAQs

Flexible working describes any work pattern that differs to your current one or the standard model of the company. This could be reducing your hours, changing the days you work or working from a different location.

For flexible working approval, you need to make a formal request to your employer.

No. Once your employer agrees to your flexible working request, your contract will be changed to reflect your new working pattern. They need to gain your consent to legally change your flexible working arrangement.

Any employee who has worked for the same company for 26 weeks or more can apply for flexible working. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent, carer, returning from maternity leave or just want more flexibility.

Your request must be submitted as a statutory application and you can only make one request each year.

Yes, but only if they have a good reason. This may include any costs to the business, quality of work produced and limitations on recruitment.

Your employer cannot discriminate when deciding. If you feel your request was handled unfairly, you might be able to make a claim against your employer.

A flexible working agreement is permanent, meaning it will last the same length of time as your employee contract. It cannot be changed or reversed without coming to another formal agreement with your employer.

In some cases, your employer may approve your flexible working request on a trial basis – this would be classed as a temporary agreement.

Three months, less a day. This is usually from the date of when you were notified of your employers’ decision although our flexible working solicitors will advise you of any limitations which apply upon reviewing your matter.