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How to ask for a flexible working arrangement

by Sellick Partnership | 29 July 2020

Since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, many employees across the UK have become accustomed to remote working — one of the most popular forms of flexible working arrangements offered by employers. However, with offices and workplaces beginning to open back up, flexible working arrangements will not necessarily remain in place in the long term. This could create some problems down the line, with employees being dissatisfied at losing the flexibility they once had and employers having to deal with unhappy staff members.

In this blog, we will provide all the advice and information you need if you are thinking of making a request for a flexible working arrangement, and explain to you your legal rights if you decide to go down this route.

What do we mean by ‘flexible working’?
When we talk about flexible working, we mean any of the following arrangements:

  • Remote working
  • Working part-time hours
  • Flexible start/end times (flexitime)
  • Permanently changing your start/finish time
  • Reduce your hours to work part-time
  • Change your start and finish time
  • A job-share arrangement
  • ‘Compressing’ your working hours into fewer days

There are two types of requests you can make with regard to flexible working arrangements: a statutory request and a non-statutory request.

Statutory requests

By law, you have the right to make a statutory flexible working request if:

  • You are legally classed as an employee
  • You have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • You have not made any other flexible working request in the last 12 months


However, you do not have the statutory right to ask for flexible working if:

  • You are an agency worker, with the exception of those returning from parental leave
  • You have asked for flexible working within the previous 12 months, whether your request was agreed to or not
  • You are an employee shareholder, unless you have returned from parental leave in the last 14 days


You can ask for the change to apply for:

  • All working days
  • Specific days or shifts only
  • Specific weeks only
  • A limited period of time

A statutory request means that your employer must consider your request fairly, following the Acas Code of Practice on flexible working requests.

In addition, it means the employer must make a decision within a maximum of three months. If and when the employer approves the request, which should be put in writing, the new arrangement will often change the terms of your employment contract.

The employer will need to make official note of:

  • The arrangement that was agreed
  • When the arrangement will begin
  • How long the arrangement will be in place for

If you are not entitled to make a statutory request for flexible working, you are entitled to make a non-statutory request. 

Non-statutory requests

If you still want to make a request for a different working arrangement despite not meeting the conditions of a statutory request, then you can submit a more informal non-statutory request.

There is no official procedure for either submitting or considering a non-statutory request, and it is not covered by the law on flexible working. That means that there is no limit on the number of requests that you can make and often means you get a decision more quickly.

However, it is important to note that the employer has no obligation to consider the request, so it is worth thinking about how important the suggested change to your working pattern is when deciding which avenue to pursue.

Making a flexible working request

Both statutory and non-statutory flexible working requests should be made in writing, either by letter or email. If it is a statutory request, you need to make sure that you state you are making a ‘statutory flexible working request’.

In your request, you should include:

  • The date of the request
  • The arrangement you would like to put in place
  • When you would like the change to start
  • Suggestions on how any issues potentially caused by the change could be effectively dealt with
  • The date of any previous flexible working requests you have made
  • If your request relates to something covered by the Equality Act 2010

Improving your chances

There are a number of things you can do while making your request to improve the chances of the decision going in your favour.

Think commercially

A company can only reject a flexible request for one of the following business reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • An inability to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to your business

Put yourself in the shoes of the employer and try to work through each potential issue, coming up with a solution as to why the change would actually benefit the business and your colleagues.

Be open minded

It is best to be prepared for a negotiation, and you may well need to compromise on what you want to ensure the employer is satisfied and that it will not have an adverse effect on the business.

Think about what arrangements you would be willing to accept if you cannot get exactly what you were looking for.

Rehearse

Once you have submitted your request, your employer should invite you for a meeting to discuss your proposed working arrangements.

It is a good idea to practice your ‘pitch’, getting clear in your mind the motivations behind it, the business opportunities that come with it and preparing for any pushback you may encounter during the conversation.

If you would like some further advice get in touch with our team today, we would be more than happy to offer some tailored advice. You can also search our latest jobs here.

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