Applying for flexible working

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you’re not happy with your current hours, you can ask your employer to let you work in a way that suits your needs. This is called ‘flexible working’.

For example this might mean working part-time, working from home or doing a job share. 

Depending on your situation, you might have the legal right to ask for flexible working. This is called making a ‘statutory request’.

If you make a statutory request, your employer has to:

  • consider the request

  • give you an answer within 2 months

  • give you a reason if they refuse the request

Even if you can’t make a statutory request, you can still ask to work flexibly. This is called an ‘informal request’. Your employer doesn’t have to consider your informal request - but they usually will.

It’s worth checking your employment contract. It might give you extra rights to ask for flexible working.

Check if you can make a statutory request

You can make a statutory request if you’re an employee and you haven’t made more than 1 statutory request in the last 12 months.

You might be an employee even if your employer or your contract says you’re self-employed. You might not be an employee if for example you work for an agency or you’re not guaranteed to get any work.

If you’re not sure if you’re an employee, check your employment status.

If you’re in the armed forces

There are different rules called ‘Flexible Service’ rules. Check the rules about Flexible Service in the armed forces on GOV.UK.

If you work for the NHS

The NHS has its own rules about flexible working. You can get more information by checking your employment handbook or asking your employer.

Deciding what to ask for

You can ask for a permanent or a temporary change to how you work.

You can ask for different kinds of flexible working, for example: 

  • working from home

  • working your usual hours in fewer days - this is called ‘compressed hours’

  • working ‘core’ hours, but varying your start and finish time - this is called ‘flexitime’

  • working a set number of hours across the year rather than each week - this is called ‘annualised hours’

  • starting and finishing at different times from your colleagues - this is called ‘staggered hours’

Think about which flexible working arrangement would work best for you and your employer. For example if your role means it’s important for you to be in a particular place like an office or warehouse, you probably won’t be able to work from home.

It’s important to think carefully before you request flexible working. If you make a statutory request, you can’t make another one for a year.

Planning how to persuade your employer

Your employer is more likely to accept your request if you can show your arrangement won’t harm their business. 

Think about any possible problems your working pattern could cause and find solutions before you talk to your employer.

For example, if you want to work part-time your employer might worry that you won’t be around on certain days. To fix this, you could make sure a colleague can cover urgent work for you when you won’t be working. 

You might also want to have a backup option in case your employer is concerned about your first choice of working pattern. 

You could suggest a trial period if your employer is unsure. 

If you think your new arrangement will benefit your employer, you should mention that too. For example, you could explain that flexible start times will make childcare easier - and this will make you less stressed and more productive.

Making a flexible working request

What you should do depends on whether you’re making a statutory request or an informal request.

If you’re making a statutory request

Think about the best time to make a request. For example if you’re coming back from maternity leave, you should think about making a request 2 months before you go back to work. This means your employer will have made a decision by the time you’re due back at work.

You must apply in writing. In your application, you must:

  • say that it’s a statutory request for flexible working

  • include the date you’re making the request

  • say if you’ve applied for flexible working before and when

  • explain the working arrangement you’d like and the date you want it to start

It’s a good idea to describe the effect your new working pattern would have on your colleagues and how you would deal with any changes.

You can also say why you’re asking to work flexibly - for example if you need the flexibility to care for someone.

For statutory requests, you can use the flexible working request template letter on GOV.UK. You can email or post the letter to your employer.

If you’re making an informal request

Check your employment contract - it might have rules about how to request flexible working. If it doesn’t, there are no rules you have to follow.

It’s a good idea to apply in writing. You should explain the working arrangement you’d like and the date you want it to start.

You can also say why you’re asking to work flexibly - for example if you need the flexibility to care for someone.

Check what happens after you’ve applied

If you make a statutory request, your employer must:

  • make a decision within 2 months from the date of your letter - unless you agree to extend the time limit

  • deal with your request in a reasonable way - this means they should consider it carefully and discuss it with you if appropriate

If you make an informal request, there’s no deadline and there are no rules about how they deal with your request.

Your employer must consult with you if they’re going to refuse your request. This usually means they’ll invite you to a meeting to discuss your application. Think about what concerns they might raise and how you can answer them. It’s also worth thinking about if there are any other working arrangements that could work for you. 

If your employer agrees to your request, they must put the changes in your contract.

If your employer refuses your request

Check what you can do if your employer refuses your flexible working request.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.