Skip to content Skip to footer

Flexible working - how to make a request

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

There are two ways in which you can make a flexible working request. One is to make a formal, statutory request, that is, a request under the rules set out in law. The other is to make a non-statutory request.

This page tells you the advantages and disadvantages of each and how to make both a statutory and a non-statutory request.

Deciding what type of request to make

If you are eligible to make a statutory request, you have the choice of doing that, or making a non-statutory request.

If you aren’t eligible to make a statutory request, you can still make a non-statutory one.

Your employer may also have a scheme for asking for flexible working. If you are not sure, ask your employer or look in the staff handbook.

Advantages and disadvantages of statutory and non-statutory requests

Statutory requestNon-statutory request
You have to meet eligibility criteria You will not have to meet any eligibility criteria, unless your employer’s scheme has its own.
You can only make one request a year. There is no limit on the number of requests you can make in a year, unless your employer’s scheme has limit.
If your employer refuses your request, there are rules on how you can make a claim in the employment tribunal under the law on flexible working If your employer refuses your request, you can still take a claim to an employment tribunal but not under the law on flexible working.
It can take up to three months, or longer if you agree to an extension of time, for your request to be approved Getting a decision could be quicker. This may be worth considering if you want to make temporary or small changes to your working pattern and need this to start soon.
You may not need to make a statutory request if your employer’s scheme is better. It may be a good idea if you want to try out a new working pattern before making a permanent change.

What to put in a non-statutory request

There is no set format for a non-statutory request, but it is usually best to make the request in writing and date it. In your letter you should:

  • set out the working pattern you are asking for and the date on which you would like it to start
  • explain how the proposed change would affect your employer and colleagues and how you think these changes might be dealt with
  • say why you are making your request if you think it will help. For example, if you need help with caring arrangements, your employer may realise that it would be discriminatory to refuse your request. However, you don’t have to say why you are making a request if you don’t want your employer to know.

What to put in a statutory request

A statutory application for flexible working must:

  • be in writing
  • be dated
  • state that it is a statutory request for flexible working
  • set out the working pattern you are asking for and the date on which you would like it to start
  • explain how the proposed change would affect your employer and colleagues and how you think any changes might be dealt with
  • state whether you have made a previous application for flexible working to your employer, and if so, when
  • say if you are making a request because you are put at a disadvantage because of your age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. For example, asking for flexibility as a reasonable adjustment to help with a disability
  • say why you are making your request, if you think it will help. For example, if you are need help with caring arrangements, your employer may realise that it would be discriminatory to refuse your request. However, you don’t have to say why you are making a request if you don’t want your employer to know.

What you need to say about how your proposed new working pattern will affect your employer

You should say how you think the change in working pattern will affect your employer's business and how these changes can be dealt with. You’re not expected to know every factor which may influence your employer's decision but you need to show that you have considered how flexible working could work in their business.

You can show this by:

  • suggesting who may be able to cover your work when you aren’t there
  • being clear about the changes that you want
  • being flexible about what may be suitable. If you have more than one option, you could describe them all to your employer, saying which choice you prefer and why. This is important if you are making a statutory request because you can only make one application a year. For example, your first choice may be to work three days a week, but you would accept working four days a week
  • explaining how the work could be managed around your changed hours
  • emphasising your continued commitment to the organisation and suggesting ways in which you may be able to provide additional working hours in emergencies.

When to make a request

Non-statutory request

You can make a non-statutory request at any time. It is a good idea to start planning it as soon as you can and asking your employer early enough for the changes to be in place by the time you want them to start.

Your employer may consider requests in the order in which they receive them, so it may help you to make your request as soon as you can.

Statutory request

You can make a statutory request at any time after you have worked for your employer for 26 consecutive weeks. It is a good idea to start planning it as soon as you can and to ask your employer as soon as you can so the changes to be put in place by the time you want them to start.

If you have made a statutory request in the previous 12 months, you have to wait until 12 months after the date of that request before you can ask again. You may be able to make a non-statutory request instead.

What happens next?

If your employer doesn't agree to your request, they should arrange to discuss your request with you as soon as possible and let you know if there is going to be any delay in dealing with your request.

How long will you have to wait for a decision?

There is no deadline for an employer to decide on a non-statutory request.

If you make a statutory request, the whole process, including any appeal, should not take more than three months from the date on which you made your request unless you and your employer agree to an extension of time.

Next steps

Other useful information

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?
Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.