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Flexible working – understanding your rights

Imature woman flexible working hours image -nformation from ACAS

Flexible working requests are likely to increase next year when Government legislation will extend the right to request flexible working. Find out how current flexible working legislation applies to you and how things will change next year.

What is flexible working?

It isn’t too long since flexible working was a rare exception to the 9-5, five day working week. But many British businesses have now realised that far from being just another “perk”, offering a flexible approach to work can help them to keep talented staff who, like many of us, have other commitments outside of the workplace.

Flexible working arrangements vary from working compressed or reduced hours, flexi time and working part time to job sharing or home working.

TUC research published last year shows that around 1 in 5 workers aged over 55 already works regularly from home, making this the most likely age group to do so.

The current rules on Flexible Working

Under current legislation parents of children aged sixteen or under, or disabled children under the age of eighteen, have the right to ask their employer to work more flexibly.

Some employees who have caring responsibilities for adults also have a right request to work flexibly. This includes people with caring responsibilities for a spouse or civil partner, parent, grandparent or grown up child. Employers have to reasonably consider all requests.

From April 2014

New legislation that comes into effect in April next year will extend the right to request flexible working to cover all employees who have been with their employer for 26 weeks or more.

This could cover:

  • older workers who wish to combine working with helping to care for grandchildren
  • people who want to pursue further education alongside work
  • those who want to give a business idea a go
  • and people who simply want to spend more time on activities outside work


Top tips on requesting to work flexibly

Whether your current caring responsibilities mean you could benefit from more flexible work now or you have future plans to combine work with other responsibilities or interests, take a look at workplace experts Acas’ top tips for requesting to work flexibly.


  • Remember you can only make one application within a 12 month period, so make sure you present a clear argument;
  • put your request in writing;
  • be as specific as possible about what you’re asking for, including proposed changes to hours, times or place of work or different working  patterns;
  • include the business benefits of your request, as well as your reasons for making the request;
  • think about the impact on your role, your team and other colleagues and how this might be managed;
  • sit  down with your employer and talk through your request, this might give you ideas for compromise;
  • If your request is refused consider carefully whether you feel your employer has handled the request fairly and whether you presented all of the most important information.
  • You may have the right of  appeal. If you do want to appeal make sure you are clear of the process you should follow – speak to your employer or HR department

Employers are expected to reasonably consider requests to work flexibly but, of course, there will be some occasions when a request to work flexibly won’t work in practice. They should however discuss your request with you, base their decision on clear business reasons and let you know the outcome as soon as possible.

You can find out more about current flexible working legislation at www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking or call the Acas Helpline for free advice on 08457 47 47 47.

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