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Exercising your right to flexible working hours

Stephen Hunt - Law on the Web

  1. 17 March 2015
  2. Employment
  3. 0 comments
Businessman checking watch

In this blog post we examine employees’ rights regarding flexible working and why workers should not be backwards in coming forwards when flexible hours could benefit them.

Low take-up of flexible working

It was recently reported in the Financial Times that in the last six years there has not been a significant increase in the number of workers taking up flexible working options, even though all employees now have the right to ask for flexible hours, and virtually all employers now offer them.

Explanations offered for this included a perception that flexible working was predominantly a women’s issue, and a stigma attached to requesting flexible hours given the troubled economic times.

In a recent survey commissioned by the CBI and Mumsnet, 42% of respondents said they would not feel comfortable asking their bosses for flexible working hours.

Law change

The option of flexible working was previously open only to those with children under the age of 16 and registered carers of children or adults.

But it is now a legal right for all employees to request flexible working, regardless of whether or not they have any dependants. As soon as an employee has been working for their employer for 26 weeks, they are eligible to submit a request for flexible working.

If you feel you may benefit from being able to work more flexible hours, it is worth exercising your right to request them. Your employer is free to reject the request if they have valid business reasons, so you should not be putting any undue pressure on them.

How to make a flexible working request

In order to make a request, which is also known as ‘making a statutory application’, you should write to your employer, making sure to include details how you wish to work flexibly, and how any effect on the business’s efficiency could be lessened.

After receiving a request for flexible working, an employer usually has three months in which to consider whether to grant their employee’s request. They have a duty to consider the request in a ‘reasonable manner’.

If the employer agrees then the employee’s contract must be altered to reflect their new flexible working arrangements; if not, the employer must write back to the employee giving the business reasons for refusing the request.

Valid reasons employers can give for refusing a flexible working request include extra costs which will damage the business, and a detrimental effect on quality, performance or the business’s ability to meet customer demand.

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