Flexible working – what is it

Working flexibly means working a different work pattern to the way you work now.

This page tells you what flexible working is and who can make a formal request under the law – this is called a statutory request. There is also information on what you can do if you can’t, or don’t want to, make a statutory request. You could still make a non-statutory request, that is, one which is not made under the law on flexible working.

The following pages explain how to make a statutory request and a non-statutory request, help you plan your request and prepare to discuss it with your employer. They also tell you what you can do if they refuse your request.

What is flexible working?

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

Flexible working arrangements may include:

changing from full-time to part-time work
changing the part-time hours that you work, for example, from weekends to week days
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
home working for part or all of the time
job sharing
self-rostering. This is most often found in hospitals and care services. You put forward the times you would like to work. Once staff levels and skills are worked out, the shift pattern is drawn up matching your preferences as closely as possible
shift working
staggered hours, these allow you to start and finish your days at different times. This is often useful in the retail sector where it is important to have more staff over the lunchtime period but fewer at the start and end of the day
time off in lieu
annualised hours, this means that working time is organised around the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than over a week. Annualised hours work best when there is a rise and fall in workload during the year.
term-time work, so you don’t work during the school holidays.
Asking for flexible working

There are two ways to ask for flexible working:

a statutory request
a non-statutory request.

Statutory request

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

you need to make your request in writing
you can only make one request in any 12-month period
your employer must consider the request seriously, and
complete the whole process (including dealing with any appeal) within three months.
Only certain employees are entitled to make a statutory request.

Non-statutory request

If you are not entitled to make a statutory request for flexible working, you can make a non-statutory one. This is one which is not made under the law on flexible working. There is therefore no set procedure for making a request. However, it is advisable to make your request in writing so that it is clear what you have asked for.

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

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

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