How to Get Flexible Working Hours
Employees need to have worked for their employer under their current contract for a minimum of 26 weeks before applying for flexible working. Ahead of this time period a request can be made but the employer does not need to regard it as a 'statutory application'. This means that they can ignore it if they wish. So long as you have worked the six-month period, the law specifies you should:
- Apply in writing. Only written requests for flexible working are considered to be statutory applications. You can write a letter or an email but remember to date your correspondence. Some big employers will have application forms you can use.
- Be patient. An employer is allowed up to three months to respond to your request. This time period may be extended but only if you agree to it.
- See contract change. If your request is successful, then your employer will need to alter the terms and conditions of your contract which deal with working hours to accommodate the newly agreed working pattern. Unless this is done properly, your flexible working pattern has not been put in place.
- Allow for disagreement. If an employer turns down your request, then they should have reasonable and justifiable grounds. In cases where you think they may not have such grounds, it is possible to make a formal complaint to an employment tribunal.
Reasons to Request Flexible Working Hours
Flexible working has many advantages over traditional office hours or shift patterns. You might like to consider it if any of the following applies to you:
- Work patterns change. During busy periods you may need to be able to work later or come in earlier to benefit your employer and a flexible working arrangement means you can get this time back rather than opt for overtime.
- Work-life balance. Improving the balance of your professional and personal life can be achieved by changing the hours you work even if you still do the same amount of work.
- Child care. Looking after pre-school age children often means needing a greater degree of flexibility with working hours. When they are older, accommodating school runs and the summer holidays may also mean you need some new flexible working patterns as well.
- Working two jobs. If you work a part-time job because other work opportunities come up from time to time, then flexibility can help you to hold down both forms of employment successfully without them impinging on one another.
- Health issues. Undergoing long-term medical treatment or dealing with certain disorders may mean you are not capable of working at certain times but can be highly productive at others so flexible working hours may be helpful.
The fact is that no two people have exactly the same combination of reasons for requesting flexible working arrangements. Nevertheless, everyone has the legal right to do so in the UK, although separate arrangements are in place in Northern Ireland. It is important to note that employers are not obliged to give you flexibility in working simply because you ask for it. Having said that they must handle all requests in what is called a 'reasonable manner'.
What to ask for
When you write to your employer asking for flexible working hours, it is a good idea to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. There are various ways in which flexibility of working can be organised. These include:
- Flexi-time. Under flexi-time you usually consent to work a certain number of hours per week, fortnight or month, but to complete them at times which suit you. In many cases, flexi-time means committing to core hours in the middle of the day with you filling in the rest before or after them depending on your other commitments
- Compressed hours. If you want a four-day working week, then compressed hours may be for you. You still do the same number of hours but must work longer on the days you are in to be able to make up your contracted hours.
- Contracted hours at home. This is a good option for people who have mobile technology which allows them to work from home. Along with so many hours you must do in the office, by opting for contracted hours at home you are allowed to log in without having to commute on certain days.
- Job share. Increasingly common, job sharing allows you to cut down your hours and go part time. However, the job you do will have its hours made up by another employee and you may need to commit to joint handover sessions to make sure everything gets done.
Flexible working hours sometimes also includes arrangements for people who are looking to retire but who are not ready to leave the workplace fully yet. In such cases it is best to ask for a phased retirement. Remember that any reduced hours you end up doing as a result of flexible working will have a pro rata effect on both your pay and holiday entitlement.