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Flexible working - what is it

This advice applies to England

Flexible working is the name given to any type of working pattern which is different from your existing one.  

Flexible working arrangements might include:

  • changing from full-time to part-time work
  • changing the part-time hours that you work, for example from weekends to weekdays
  • changing working hours to fit in with, for example, school hours, college hours or care arrangements
  • compressed hours, that is, working your usual hours in fewer days
  • flexitime, which allows you to fit your working hours around agreed core times
  • working from home or remotely for part or all of the time
  • job sharing
  • self-rostering, where your shift pattern is drawn up to match your preferred times as closely as possible
  • shift working
  • staggered hours, which allow you to start and finish your days at different times
  • time off in lieu
  • annualised hours, where your working time is organised around the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than over a week
  • term-time work, so you don’t work during the school holidays

There are 2 ways to ask for flexible working:

  • a statutory request
  • a non-statutory request

If your request is refused, you can check if it’s discrimination.

Making a statutory request

This is a request which is made under the law on flexible working. This means there’s a process set out in law that you and your employer need to follow when you’re negotiating your flexible working request. 

Only certain employees are entitled to make a statutory request.

Check if you can make a statutory request

To have the statutory right to ask for flexible working arrangements, you must be an employee. You must also have worked for your employer for 26 weeks in a row on the date you make your application.

Even if you meet the entitlement conditions, you don’t have the statutory right to ask for flexible working if:

  • you’re an agency worker - however, agency workers who are returning from parental leave do have the right to make a flexible working request
  • you’ve asked for flexible working within the previous 12 months, whether your request was agreed to or not
  • you’re an employee shareholder, unless you’ve returned from parental leave in the last 14 days

If you don’t meet the criteria for making a statutory request, you could still make a non-statutory request, or make one under your employer’s scheme if there is one.

Making a non-statutory request

If you’re not entitled to make a statutory request for flexible working, you can make a non-statutory one. This is one which isn’t made under the law on flexible working. There is no set procedure for making a request - it’s advisable to make your request in writing so it’s clear what you’ve asked for.

Your employer might also have their own scheme with rules that are more generous than the statutory scheme. For example, it might be open to all employees regardless of how long they've worked for your employer.

Even if you can make a statutory request, you might want to make a non-statutory request instead if, for example, the change you’re asking for is minor or temporary.

Check if the change is permanent

If your employer agrees to your flexible working request, it will mean a permanent change to your contract. You can both agree a trial period to make sure the new arrangements work.

If you don’t want to make a permanent change to your contract, you might be able to agree a temporary change with your employer.

How a flexible working request can affect your terms and conditions

If you work different hours to those you were working before, you should be paid at least the same, but on a ‘pro rata’ basis. 

Being paid pro rata is when you get a share of the equivalent full time salary - for example, if the full time role is 35 hours a week and you work 17.5 hours, you get half the pay you’d get if you worked full time.

You should also get at least the same holiday and other benefits pro rata. 

If your employer wants to give you worse terms and conditions because of your new working arrangements, you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal. This could include a discrimination claim. The same applies if you’ve changed from full to part-time work and you’re given worse terms and conditions as a result.

Working flexibly won’t affect your statutory employment rights, including:

  • claiming unfair dismissal
  • itemised pay statements
  • a written statement of terms and conditions 
  • statutory minimum notice
  • the longer period of maternity leave

Any reduction in your working hours shouldn’t affect your right to join, or stay in, an occupational pension scheme. Excluding part-time workers from an occupational pension scheme is unlawful discrimination.

If your pay goes down when you move to flexible working, it might affect what you get if you’re made redundant.

Next steps

Flexible working – planning what changes to ask for

Flexible working – negotiation

Flexible working – taking action

Flexible working – discrimination

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