Flexible working - your rights
It can be tricky to fit a full-time job around looking after children, so you may well need some flexibility from your employer. Happily, the law says that you can request flexible working hours. Here’s what you’re entitled to and how to give yourself the best chance of getting an arrangement that makes both your homelife and worklife easier
Can I ask for flexible working hours?
You have the right to request flexible working if you have a child/children aged under 18. You also have the right to have your request taken seriously by your employer. This doesn’t mean that you have a legal right to work flexibly – but that you are allowed to request it and your employer must consider it.
What is the law on flexible working hours for parents?
Your employer isn't legally obliged to grant your request. What they must do is follow proper procedure, including meeting you and giving you an opportunity to appeal if your request is refused. Reasons for refusal have to be given in writing and must be 'business' reasons, such as that it would cost the company a lot more, or that your request would have a detrimental effect on customer service.
How to apply for flexible working
Your application has to be in writing, signed and dated. There are rules about how quickly your employer has to respond, how long you have to accept or appeal etc. So it’s important to do everything by the book (tempting though it is to take your boss out for three glasses of wine and then beg).
Before you request flexible working, it's worth considering how you'd demonstrate that your work/the business won't be affected adversely. Issues you want to address might include:
- How you'd communicate with your colleagues if you were working from home
- How you'd give input to meetings on your home days
- How you'd keep your boss/rest of the team up to date with your workload
- Whether you could be flexible about which days/hours you're in the office
You also need to think about what you might suggest to your employer about how to cover the remainder of your tasks. Simply suggesting that your colleagues have the spare capacity to cover some of your work might erode goodwill.
A trial period provides a bit of a 'safe' environment to test your proposal. Your employer can withdraw the arrangement if it's not working, and it gives you the opportunity to make sure it works brilliantly so they can't possibly turn it down.
Common types of flexible working
- Flexi-time (choosing when to work, although there's usually a 'core' period when you have to work)
- Annualised hours (hours worked out over a year)
- Compressed hours (agreed hours over fewer days)
- Staggered hours (different start, break and finish times for different employees)
- Job-share (sharing a job designed for one person with someone else)
- Home work (self-explanatory)
- Part-time work
Can my employer change my flexible working hours?
Once your flexible working hours have been agreed between you and your employer, your hours cannot be changed without your consent. Your flexible hours agreement should be added to your contract so that there is no room for uncertainty.
The only exception would be if you were to reach a temporary agreement with your employer about flexible working hours, perhaps for a trial period. At the end of this agreed period, your employer could insist that you revert to your previously agreed hours. But if you reach a permanent agreement about your flexible working hours, your employer cannot change the agreement without consulting you.