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How to request flexible working

Working flexibly can mean you work in a different way, from a different place, or at a different time to what’s normal.

If you’ve worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more, it’s likely you have the right to request flexible working. But this doesn’t mean your employer must give it to you. So it’s important you do some preparation before you ask for it.

Decide which type of flexible working might work for you

Flexi-time. You choose when to start and end your day, but you commit to working during core hours, usually 10am – 4pm.

Compressed hours. You work the same hours as a full working week but spread over fewer days.

Job-share. You share the work and pay of a single full-time job with someone else. 

Working from home. This could mean you work almost entirely from home or you split your time between your workplace and your home. Or you might go into work most of the time and only work from home sometimes.

Annualised hours. You work your contracted hours over the course of the year but the actual hours you work change from week to week or month to month. 

Term-time work. You only work during the school term so you’re free in the school holidays. 

Decide if you’re making a statutory or non-statutory request for flexible working

There are two ways you can request flexible working. 

Statutory request

A statutory request for flexible working is governed by law. If you make this kind of request, you need to put your request in writing and your employer must discuss it with you before they decide.

Non-statutory request

This kind of request might work for you if you’re not covered by flexible working legislation. You might also want to make a non-statutory request if you’re not sure if flexible working is for you, and you just want to try it out. Or if you want to work flexibly but only for a short time.

A non-statutory request for flexible working isn’t governed by law. If your employer has an internal procedure around flexible working, follow it. If they don’t, you may want to follow some of the steps below. 

TIP: If you’re not sure if flexible working’s for you, but you want to try it, make a non-statutory request.

Put your flexible working request in writing

It’s important you include the following information in your request. 

  1. Explain why you want to work flexibly.
  2. Outline what type of change to your working pattern you’re asking for. 
  3. Specify how long you want to do this for. It can be for the foreseeable future or for a specific period of time.
  4. Identify any impact on your employer and your colleagues.
  5. Explain how you and your employer or team could manage the impact.
  6. State that you’re making a statutory request for flexible working. If you’ve requested flexible working in the past, mention the previous requests you’ve made and their dates. 

Arrange a meeting about your flexible working request

Arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss your request. To improve your chances of being successful, do some work to prepare for your meeting. 

Work through the implications. Work through what it’ll mean for your team and your organisation if you go flexible. Think about any issues your manager may be concerned about so you can address them in the meeting. Show how the change will work in practice and highlight any ways it benefits the business too.

Be clear on the benefits. Make sure you can speak clearly about why you want to work flexibly and how this will benefit your wellbeing and your performance at work.

Ask for support. If you think it’ll help, ask if a co-worker can join you in the meeting.

Keep an open mind. Don’t go into your meeting with a closed mind. Showing you’re flexible and willing to explore options will likely increase your chances of being successful.

TIP: Make sure you can talk about why you want to work flexibly and how this will benefit your wellbeing and your performance at work.

What to do if they say ‘yes’

Once you’ve agreed a flexible working pattern with your employer, talk through how it’ll work with your colleagues. Particularly those who’ll be affected by your change in work pattern. If you’re happy to share the reason you’re going flexible, do it. If they understand the reasons for your change they’re more likely to support you. 

How to deal with it if they say ‘no’

Your employer should give you an explanation if they turn down your request for flexible working. There are a number of reasons they may refuse your request:

  • There’s not enough for you to do during the hours you’re proposing to work
  • It will be difficult to meet customer demand
  • Quality or standards will suffer
  • Your performance will suffer
  • It isn’t possible to reorganise your work among co-workers
  • They’re planning structural changes
  • You working flexibly will cost them money
  • They won’t be able to recruit more staff to cover

If you feel your request has been unfairly refused, depending on the circumstances you could try the following.

  • Make an appeal
  • Raise a grievance
  • Make a discrimination claim
  • Refer your request to ACAS or the Labour Relations Agency 
  • Claim constructive dismissal
  • Make a claim to an industrial tribunal 

If you want to raise an issue or make a claim, read more about how to do this through Citizens Advice.  

TIP: Your employer should give you an explanation if they turn down your request for flexible working. 

Get advice if you need it

Contact your HR department for information on flexible working, especially if you’re not able to make a statutory request. 

If your organisation has an employee-led network for diversity and inclusion, it may be a good source of information and support on working flexibly. The network will usually be up to speed on your employer’s practices. ACAS can also provide you with information and advice on flexible working and has a legal helpline. And if you’re a parent, the charity Working Families can give you information and advice around flexible working. 

You can read more about statutory and non-statutory flexible working