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Flexible Working And The Law

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 20 Sep 2017 |
Employer Flexible Working Tribunal

Flexible working can take numerous forms, and includes job sharing, working part-time, working from home, ‘flexi-time’, working in shifts or compressing your agreed hours into a shorter period of time.

The Right To Request Flexible Working

If you are responsible for your child on a day-to-day basis, you may have the right to request flexible working hours from your employer. To be an employee, you must not be an agency worker, nor be in the armed forces. However, there are other requirements:
  • a) Have you worked for your current employer for at least 26 weeks (6 months)?
  • b) If you live in England, Wales or Scotland is your child under 17 years old?
  • c) If you live in England, Wales or Scotland is your child disabled and under the age of 18?
  • d) If you live in Northern Ireland is your child under the age of six?

If you have answered yes to a) and either b), c) or d), then you can ask for flexible working in the UK. It is also possible to ask for flexible working if you care for an adult. Bear in mind, however, that although you have the right to ASK, this does not necessarily mean that your employer must accede to your request. In addition, not having the ‘right’ to ask for flexible working does not prevent you from being able to ask your employer for it.

Who Can Apply?

If making an application to care for a child, you must confirm that you are responsible for the child and are either a parent, adoptive parent, Foster Parent or Guardian or are the partner or spouse of a person who has one of these roles. You do not need to provide evidence that you have a parental or caring role in relation to a child, nor do you need to show that someone else could alternatively provide that care.

Procedure For Requesting Flexible Working

You are entitled to make the request once a year, but bear in mind that there is a strict procedure that will need to be followed and the entire process could take up to 14 weeks. If your employer agrees to your request, you will have different – and possibly reduced – hours, which means that you may receive different remuneration, too.

Duty To Consider Request

Your employer has a duty to give your request serious consideration. If refused, your employer has to show that they have a good reason for doing so and give these reasons in writing. You can appeal their decision, but must provide notice in writing that you wish to appeal, giving reasons why you want to appeal, within 14 days of receiving the decision.

Other Options

If your employer still does not agree to your request to work flexible hours, there may still be some options open to you. ACAS offers a flexible working arbitration scheme, which may be able to help you come to an agreement with your employer. The Labour Relations Agency may be able to help in Northern Ireland.

Employment Tribunals

It may also be possible to take your employer to an employment tribunal on the basis of sex discrimination. For example, if female workers in your organization have made successful requests for flexible working and you believe that you have been refused on the basis that you are a man, this could constitute a valid claim for sex discrimination. However, an employment tribunal might not have the ability to turn over your employer’s decision, but may order them to reconsider your request, or to pay you compensation.

Another option is only available in limited circumstances: if your employer did not follow the proper procedure for flexible working requests, or if they failed to take into account all the information that you submitted as part of your request, then you may be able to take this complaint to an employment tribunal. For more information, contact a legal advisor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi I work at a cinema and they said I have contracted hours I have asked for better working hours but I always get unsuitable hours around the weekends and I have outside of work commitments with my son on a Saturdays. Near enough every rota that I get once a week I'm in on a Saturdays mornings. I have told them my best availablity is during the week. I cannot afford childcare because some of the shifts are in the evenings. I am a single parent as well
Big Dave - 20-Sep-17 @ 9:05 PM
Keshari Gurung - Your Question:
Hi there m a mother of 11 months baby n I had request for the flexible hour but my boss decline it.m relli deppresed at the moment.i just want to know what r my rights.what should I do in this situation.plz help

Our Response:
You do have the right to request flexible working hours but your employer does not have to agree to your request. Your employer must show that your request has been given sufficient consideration and provide agood business reason for refusal.
LawAndParents - 28-Jul-17 @ 2:40 PM
Hi therem a mother of 11 months baby n i had request for the flexible hour but my boss decline it .m relli deppresed at the moment.i just want to know what r my rights.what should i do in this situation.plz help
Keshari Gurung - 26-Jul-17 @ 7:38 PM
Dotty - Your Question:
Employer wants to move my finish time from 10.30pm til midnight I work on an industrial estate and do not drive my husband is a full time driver and unable to collect me as our 11 year old would be in bed. I have given my reasons to my employer and requested flexible working to stay at my contacted finish hours as I do now but they are unwilling to accept my request and say I must do new hours or tgey will pay me a months salary and I must leave.Surley this is not right???

Our Response:
Unless your contract states a specific finish time, your employer can change it. An employer has to give good business reasons for refusing a flexible hours request. If you contract gives specific start and finish times, you must consent to this change in your contract. Please seeour guide to objecting to changes in your contract
LawAndParents - 9-May-17 @ 2:03 PM
Employer wants to move my finish time from 10.30pm til midnight I work on an industrial estate and do not drive my husband is a full time driver and unable to collect me as our 11 year old would be in bed. I have given my reasons to my employer and requested flexible working to stay at my contacted finish hours as I do now but they are unwilling to accept my request and say I must do new hours or tgey will pay me a months salary and I must leave. Surley this is not right???
Dotty - 8-May-17 @ 12:32 PM
Hi my daughter currently works for the NHS she has a 10mth old daughter and was initially granted the exclusion from working night shifts as she has no one to have her daughter at night ( she works early and late shifts and weekends). At a recent meeting with her manager and HR they informed her they could no longer allow her to not do night shifts, her union rep wasn't very supportive. They have told her that if she cannot do nights she will have to look at other jobs in the Trust she works in and the only job currently available to her is in the community in Wolverhampton which would take her 1 hour 45 mins to get to work after dropping her daughter and 4 bus journeys. Plus whatever journeys she would have to do during day for job. They have told her that if she doesn't take this job she is in effect making herself unemployed and will have to leave. Can anyone please advise us what she can do. Thank you
Janey - 6-Jan-17 @ 11:24 AM
Hi my ex partner is threatening me with court action as she says im nothaving enough time with our children because I work Sunday till Fri Saturday is my only day off I have the children Fri night till sat night no option to see them any time as travel takes up a lot of my day getting home at 7.30 pm would the court grant her wish and insist to change my days any info would be appreciated
sutty72 - 3-Dec-15 @ 6:47 AM
@pjay. Does your contract state specific times of work? If so, then your employer is in breach of contract. If not, then you should submit a formal request for the previous hours on the basis of flexible working hours for childcare considerations. Your employer will then have to give you a valid reason for the changes. If someone else has been offered your old hours find out why and check that no discrimination is involved.
LawAndParents - 27-Jul-15 @ 12:32 PM
I am in retail and work for a big supermarket i have worked for my employer's for 13 years they have pulled me into the office to say they are changing my hour's from school hour's to 2pm to 7pm at night I have a 13 year old son but my partner is in the hotel trade so can work anything from 6am to 12pm at night any day of the week I also help my elderly parents out all the time as my father has Dementia. I really don't know where I stand as I have done this shift pattern for as long as I have worked for the company
pjay - 24-Jul-15 @ 3:19 PM
@becky. This is a bit unreasonable but unfortunately there's not huge deal you can do if your contract did not state specific hours/times. If it did, you can take steps under a breach of contract (more information in in this article). Your employer must give you a good business reason as to why you cannot work flexible hours for childcare reasons. The article linked to, also has some information about this.
LawAndParents - 7-May-15 @ 2:06 PM
i'm really struggling at the moment as I'm really stressed out about work I have been with my current employer for 8 years and split with my girls dad 2 years ago, since forming a new relationship my children's dad is very patchy with contact and sometimes doesn't have them at all, my employer is now going through a process of changing everyone's hours the hours I have been offered are shocking 2-10 tue followed by 2-10 Friday and 10-7 sat every week, I have been into speak to hr and they have told me if I don't sign for the above hours I wi recieve my notice !!!!! I have told them I can work until 7 pm most days as I have a childminder that works until 7:30 now my employer is saying I'm not flexible enough for the company!!!!!
becky - 1-May-15 @ 10:31 AM
@San. Check your employment contract but assuming you are contracted to work specific days and specific hours, then your employer cannot change these without your consent. If they do, they are in breach of contract. The employer will need to have sufficient grounds for sacking you - it seems to us as though employing an additional worker might be a viable solution to take up the work on the days you don't. Suggest that as an alternative. If that fails, then seek help from ACAS or your union if you have one - it may be that you have to take this to a tribunal.
LawAndParents - 4-Nov-14 @ 10:29 AM
I am a single lone parent of an 8 year old.I have worked for the same company for 28 1/2 years. I worked full time until I had my son.I now work 16 hours,3 days a week and have done this for 8 1/2 years.I am about to be given 90 days notice to end my contract as I am not flexible enough! FLEXIBLE being wanted to work weekends and until 11.30pm!! This is not possible for me to do as the 3 days I do work I start at 5.45 am and my 73 year old mum takes my son to school for me.My mum is not in the best of health as it is and I feel bad enough putting her out 3 days a week but I am able to do these hours as I know I have cover for my son for these days! I was wondering what my rights where!!
san - 3-Nov-14 @ 5:04 PM
I'm a single farther that looks after my son of 9 years old. I'm currently in court with my x partner who is a police woman, caffcass has agreed that my son should reside with me but I'm having a problem with my x partner with regular contact with our son as it is never the same on the week days and on the weekends, as she is blaming her job say she can not arrange regular contact with our son. I find it hard to believe as I'm sure if she pursue her employer so she could change her shift patterns so she could see our son regular during the week and on a weekend in four or two. Have you any advice what she could do, and what her rights are although she only has shared residence with me and my son resides with me.
deanos6969 - 20-Nov-13 @ 1:32 PM
I'm a single mum of a 3 year old for the last 2 1l2 years since going back of maternity I've worked the same days & hours this was agreed by my employer & never been a prob.weve had a new boss & its all a problem & he seems in making work very hard for me,my hours are a problem,my sons in private day are & not possible to keep changing his days coz of staff ratio with children what can I do,he won't listen,he doesn't even talk to me whilst im at work he won't let me know if I can have the holidays I want but keeps putting other staffs holidays in.
kat - 20-Jan-13 @ 6:20 PM
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