Requesting flexible working

Last updated: 05 Mar 2020

All employees who have been employed for 26 weeks or more have the right to request flexible working.

Under the legislation, employees can ask for their contracts to be varied to change:

  • hours of work
  • times or patterns of work
  • location of work (to work from home, for example, or work at another site).

Requests can be made for any reason and the employer must give them due consideration.

Once a request to change hours or location is agreed under the provisions, it will be a permanent change, with no obligation on the employer to agree to vary the terms later on.

For example, if an employee goes part-time in order to care for a young child, there will be no right to revert to full-time hours later on, unless this is contractually agreed with the employer.

Making an application to work flexibly

There are strict procedures for making an application to work flexibly. This must be in writing and dated, and state:

  • that it is an application under the statutory provisions
  • the change applied for
  • the proposed date for the change to take effect
  • whether a previous application has been made and when
  • the impact it would have on the employer
  • the employee’s proposal on how such an impact could be dealt with.

The last two points appear to place an unrealistic burden on the employee, as it will be for them to state the expected effect of the change and to propose remedies for the employer. It is unclear how literally tribunals will apply these conditions, but they are likely to put some employees off.

Once an application is made, whether accepted or not, employees cannot make a further application under the legal provisions for 12 months.

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