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Flexible Working

Flexible Working


What is Flexible Working?

There are many different forms of flexible working; it can describe the place you work or the kind of contract you are on.  Common kinds of flexible working include:

  • Part-time working. For example, an employee might start work later and finish early in order to take care of children after school

  • Flexi-time. Employees may be required to work within essential periods but outside ‘core times’ they often get flexibility in how they work their hours

  • Job-sharing. Typically, two employees share the work normally done by one employee

  • Working from home. New technology makes communication with office and customers possible by telephone, fax and email from home, car or other remote locations

  • Term-time working. An employee on a permanent contract takes paid or unpaid leave during school holidays

  • Staggered hours. Employees in the same workplace have different start, finish and break times – often as a way of covering longer opening hours

  • Annual hours. This is a system which calculates the hours an employee works over a whole year. The annual hours are usually split into ‘set shifts’ and ‘reserve shifts’ which are worked as the demand dictates

  • Compressed working hours. Employees work their total agreed hours over fewer working days – for example, a five-day working week is compressed into four days

  • Shift-working. Shift-work is widespread in industries which must run on a 24-hour cycle, such as newspaper production, utilities and hospital and emergency services.


What is the law on flexible working?

In April 2003 the Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young and disabled children to apply to work flexibly. From April 2007 this right has been extended to cover carers of adults.

An application to work flexibly can cover:

  • hours of work

  • times of work

  • place of work (as between home and place of business only)

and must be taken seriously by the employer.


Who can apply for flexible working?

The applicant making a request for flexible working must be an employee with a contract of employment – agency workers or members of the armed forces are not eligible. The employee must:

  • have a child 16 and under (disabled child under 18)

  • be the carer for an adult as defined by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)

  • have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date that the application is made

  • not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months.



To qualify the employee must have parental responsibility for the child. This includes biological parents, legal guardians, adoptive and foster parents and spouses of these, including same sex partners as long as they have parental responsibility for the child.

Employees can apply to work flexibly to look after a ‘relative’. This definition covers parents, parent-in-law, adult child, adopted adult child, siblings (including those who are in-laws), uncles, aunts, grandparents or step-relatives.


The Work and Families Act defines a carer as an employee who is or expects to be caring for an adult who:

  • is married to, or the partner or civil partner of the employee; or

  • is a relative of the employee; or

  • falls into neither category but lives at the same address as the employee.


How must the application be made?

The employee must comply with the following requirements:

  • the application must be made in writing, stating that it is being made under the statutory right to apply for flexible working

  • the application must confirm the employee’s relationship to the child or adult

  • the application must set out the employee’s proposal and explain what effect the employee thinks this will have on the employer's business and how this may be dealt with

  • the application must specify a start date for the proposed change giving the employer reasonable time to consider the proposal and implement it. This may take 12–14 weeks

  • the application must state whether a previous application has been made and if so the date on which it was made

  • the application must be dated.


Employees should be aware that if the employer approves their application, the variation in contractual terms is a permanent one and the employee has no automatic right to change back to their previous pattern of work, unless the application seeks the variation for a specified time period only. A trial period may be agreed.


For further information click here - The Right to Request Flexible Working