In this blog, we walk you through the process of how to make a flexible work request. Although we cannot guarantee that if you follow these steps your request will be approved, we can give you some important tips to consider when making your request.

Steps to make a flexible work request

Here are the official steps to take when making your flexible working request:

1. Check if your employer has a flexible work policy

2. Decide whether you are making a statutory or non-statutory request (we cover the difference further in this article)

3. Gather any evidence or arguments you need for how your request will work if your employer approves it

4. Write a request letter – there is an outline below to help

5. Submit your letter. Your employer will have three months to respond.

Your statutory request letter should include:

● the date you’re sending it

● the changes you’d like to make

● when you’d like the change to start

● how the change could impact your work or the business

● include the day of any previous flexible working requests

● if your request relates to something covered by the Equality Act 2010, for example, to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for a disability.

Beyond this, there are other elements you can bring in that can help your argument for flexible working.

Let’s take a look at what you can consider before sending in that letter.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working doesn’t necessarily mean part-time or even remote work. It is simply asking your employer to change your official contract working hours. You want to start earlier so that you can finish earlier. Or shift your hours in another way.

Of course, it can also mean that you want to do hybrid working, work from home, or you may want to job share or reduce hours. Often you need to make a flexible work request because you have commitments at home which do not fit the 9-5 working pattern. Parents find this particularly difficult because the school day is much shorter and childcare is expensive.

Flexible work requests can be made by any employee and certain employees have a statutory right to make their requests. We’ll look at this further on.

Considerations to your request

If you’re at the point where you want to make a request, then you should have a good idea of how you’d like your working week to look. Before you send your letter, think about how this will impact your employer. Go through the kinds of questions they might ask when they get your request. You need to think about what’s in it for them.

Questions such as:

● How will your work be covered when you are not in the office?

● If you get the request, will others want the same?

● How will your working pattern impact the company and your team?

Consider both the positive and negative impacts of your flexible work request. From your perspective, it’s easy to see all the positives. And definitely bring this energy to the table. Yet, it helps if you can show you’ve considered both sides and come up with solutions for how it can work.

You’ll also want to consider the company culture. Are they a business that encourages family-friendly hours? Is there a precedent of others having flexible work requests approved? If you were working from home during the pandemic, what evidence can you show about your productivity?

Getting all of this in front of you before you make a request will give you a better chance of success. It shows you’ve considered the request as a proper proposal rather than only looking at how it fits into your life.

Remember that you also may need to negotiate with your employer. Have an idea of how you might adapt your request before you begin so that you can prepare for any negotiation.

Why an employer might decline a request

Once you’ve made your request in writing, your employer has three months to decide. Employers can decline a request for a number of reasons.  Your employer needs to deal with your request in a reasonable manner and within the time period. A decline needs to be for one of the following reasons:

  • It creates additional costs
  • They cannot meet customer demands
  • Reorganising other staff around your needs
  • Difficulties recruiting new employees
  • There will be a negative impact on the quality of work
  • Or a negative impact on your performance
  • There isn’t enough work for the periods when you want to be working
  • Or there are planned structural changes.

It can be incredibly disheartening to have your flexible working request declined. At this point, you may have to wait another year to resubmit the request. If you were making the request so you could meet your caring responsibilities, you may be tempted to look for alternative employment.

Before you do, come and have a chat with us. We can talk you through the options available and whether you might have a case for an employment tribunal.

Current statutory rights to make a flexible working request

At the moment, you need to be an employee and to have worked for the company continuously for 26 weeks before you can make a statutory flexible working request.

You can make one request in a 12 month period. If this request is declined you will need to wait before making another.

Even if you meet the entitlement conditions, you don’t have the statutory right to ask for flexible working as:

● An agency worker – however, agency workers returning from parental leave do have the right to make a flexible working request

● You made a flexible working within the last 12 months, whether your request was agreed to or not

● An employee shareholder unless you’ve returned from parental leave in the last 14 days

Anyone can make a non-statutory request, including those not eligible for a statutory request. You can make as many as you want in a year. If you make a non-statutory request and it is turned down, you will not be eligible to make a tribunal claim on the basis of flexible working. Although, depending on the circumstances, you may have a case for discrimination.

Employment Tribunal Claims on Flexible Working

You may be subject to sex discrimination if your request is turned down.

Earlier this year, estate agent Alice Thompson, won £180,000 at an employment tribunal. Her employer refused a flexible work request for her to finish an hour earlier so she could collect her daughter from nursery. The judge found she had been discriminated against by the denial of her request.

If your request is denied, do get in touch to find out how we can help.

Campaign for better flexible working

At the moment, your flexible work is hugely dependent on the culture of your company. Working mothers are campaigning to improve this situation for all employees. Campaigns from Mother Pukka and Pregnant Then Screwed understand that working mums are most in need of flexible work. But changes in the law will impact every employee and at the moment, changes are slow.