Flexible working requests: know your rights

Flexible working requests remote working working from home

In recent years, the working world has evolved enormously and we’re all realising that there’s more to life than the drudgery of being chained to a desk all day. In fact, many of us have no option but to request flexible working hours due to caring, parenting and general life responsibilities that fewer and fewer of us are prepared to forego in favour of our jobs.

So, if you’re thinking of submitting a request for flexible working arrangements, we’ve created a guide filled with all the necessary insights. We’ve got information on flexible working request laws as well as flexible working request application processes.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a buzzword that can be used by employers to attract new recruits. But what does it actually mean?

The term flexible working is up for interpretation. For some, it’s the option of working part-time hours or job sharing. For others it’s about finishing early or starting later on certain days to help with school runs or avoiding heavy traffic. It can be about working from home all or some of the time and having freedom about where and when a worker performs the tasks required to do their job.

Is flexible working common in the UK?

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 84% of full-time male employees and 91% of full-time female employees already either work flexibly or want to. Overall, 63% of employees already work flexibly.

There’s never been a better time to make a flexible working request. Attitudes to flexible working changed drastically during the Covid 19 pandemic when we were all ordered to stay at home. Millions of us managed our jobs just fine, without sticking to the rigid 9-5 at a desk routine or succumbing to that mind-numbing commute. Here at Moneyboat, we enjoy a hybrid approach to working and we love the cost-savings it brings us, as well as the boost to our work-life balance.

With employers increasingly struggling with labour shortages, anyone advertising a position now knows that offering flexible working above and beyond the bare minimum is a no-brainer. In a post-Covid world, employers know that offering flexible working options can help them to attract and retain top talent. In fact, most workers now expect flexible working when they apply for a job.

What are the advantages of flexible working?

Speaking to the team here at Moneyboat, where we offer a hybrid working environment for our staff, there are so many benefits to flexible working. A few of our team talked about game-changing benefits like the ability to see their kids to school or be around when they are feeling unwell. Others were keen to tell us about the smaller pluses, like being in to receive packages or to let a plumber in. For some of us, just being able to hide from the world on a bad hair day is a major win.

But there’s something even more important about flexible working that perhaps doesn’t get talked about enough. And that’s the issue of location. If you live outside of a major city, getting top jobs can be difficult. However, working remotely can open up huge opportunities to people, regardless of where they live.

What are your rights to request for flexible working arrangements?

Wondering about flexible working request laws? Well, currently, anyone can make a flexible working request after they have been in their current role for at least 26 weeks. This is called ‘making a statutory request’. Employers are then required by law to deal with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’, which can involve offering an appeals process, holding a meeting, and assessing the pros and cons of the request.

Employers are within their rights to refuse the request for a good business reason. However, employees can also take their employer to a tribunal if they feel their request hasn't been handled reasonably.

Back in December 2022, the government announced that it was planning to go further to help employees to secure flexible working terms. It introduced legislation that would allow them to apply for flexible working from the first day of a job, rather than having to wait until 26 weeks had passed.

Unions welcomed the move but also stated that they would like the government to go further by making flexible working the norm, rather than something that had to be specifically requested. A TUC survey found that many employees don’t feel comfortable requesting flexible working in interviews and that half of working mums don’t have their flexible working requests accepted.

How to make a successful flexible working request

Whether or not your flexible working request is successful will be down to your employer and their attitudes to flexible working and their ability to accept the terms you’re proposing. However, you can maximise your chances of having your flexible working request accepted by following the government’s advice on the steps for making a statutory request, which are as follows:

The first step in the flexible working request process should be contacting your employer (either by email or in writing) with the following information:

  • The date

  • A statement that you’re making a statutory request

  • Details of how you want to work flexibly and when you want to start

  • An explanation of how you think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be overcome.

  • Details of any previous requests you have made

Next, your employer must consider your request and get back to you with a response within three months.

If your employer agrees to your request, they will need to then change your contract to reflect the new arrangement.

If your request is rejected, your employer must write to you explaining why they turned you down and you may be able to take them to an employment tribunal if you disagree with the decision or feel they have handled your request badly. For more information on tribunals, check out the Gov.uk page on appeals.

There are various reasons for flexible working request applications, and employers seem

more ready to listen than ever before. Now might be the perfect time to put in your application.

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