Every employee has certain basic rights in UK employment law. We discuss them in a series of blog posts.

A majority of UK employees are unaware about flexible working legislation.

Basic right no.3 - right to request flexible working 1Flexible working means doing a job in a pattern or place that is other than the normal one for that workplace. Common examples of flexible working are working from home, flexible working hours (e.g. atypical working hours, job-sharing, part-time working, flexitime, annualised hours or completing allotted working hours in fewer days).

‘Annualised hours’ is a form of extreme flexitime. It means that you work, say 2000 hours per year and it is down to the employee and/or the employer to fit them around their busy periods and activities.

If you have worked for at least 26 weeks with your employer, whether part time or full time, you have the right to ask for flexible working. The legislation requires such requests to be in writing, though many employers will not insist on this. It should say what you are looking for along with what you think will be its impact on the business and possible measures to address this. The employer is only obliged to respond to one formal request per employee per year.

After the request has been made, it is employers’ duty to consider it. They must invite you to a meeting to discuss it, consider all the relevant information and provide their decision within three months.

Although you have the right to ask, the employer has the right to say no. A request may be rejected for several reason, including the burden of additional cost, an inability to either meet customer demand, to reorganise work, or to recruit new staff – basically, for reasons to do with business need.

They must provide their rationale for turning down the decision otherwise you may have grounds to bring an employment tribunal claim. But in truth, it is a tick-box exercise as the decision will be hard to challenge because tribunals are very reluctant to go behind the decision of an employer, presuming that it is best placed to understand its business needs.

If your request is rejected, you can either:

  • Appeal against the decision if the employer allows you to.
  • Bring an employment tribunal claim. Where the employer has failed to comply with the request procedure the tribunal can force them to reconsider their decision. Where the outcome is discriminatory (e.g. failing to let staff work part-time is often discriminatory because women have greater childcare responsibilities than men) you may be awarded greater compensation. However, in neither case can an employment tribunal force the employer to provide you with the desired flexible working change.

If the request is approved, it will represent a permanent change to your contract, with no right to return to the original terms in the future, unless otherwise agreed between the parties.

<< Previous basic right Next basic right >>