Flexible working is fast becoming as important as favourable remuneration for many employees across the UK, but how do you apply for it if your current employment contract doesn’t allow it?
Under current UK employment law (excluding Northern Ireland), you are eligible to request to work flexibly after you’ve completed 26 weeks of service with the same employer.
Steps to Making the Request Official
- Your request has to be written and properly dated
- Talk about the changes you want to make to your working pattern
- Talk about when you’d like the request to take effect
- Talk about how your employer may or may not be affected by the changes
- Talk about any previous examples when you requested flexible working and what happened
This ACAS guide clearly illustrates the roles employers and employees have to play at this point. The guide shows that an employee will be better served talking about the need for flexibility in an in-depth manner. It is not mandatory, but it might be beneficial to elaborate on how denial of your application can impact your personal or family life.
After the request has been submitted, your employer is mandated to provide a response within three months.
Legal Business Reasons for Rejection of your Flexible Working Application
If an employer doesn’t approve your request, it must be for any of these following reasons:
- Upcoming changes to the business structure
- Negative impact on business performance
- Negative impact on quality of service
- Lack of capacity to bring in more staff
- Difficulty in spreading work load across other employees
- Problems with handling additional costs in general
Your employer isn’t legally bound to communicate any rejection in writing. You also do not have a universally legal right to appeal. So, your employer can only breach the approved process by not giving any of the permitted reasons listed above or taking beyond the stipulated three months to provide a response.
What happens when your request is rejected?
The first step is to check if your employer has provisions for an appeal. If they do, use the approved appeals process. Where they don’t have an appeals process, you can still communicate in writing to explain how you think their decision is wrong. Try to talk them into seeing reason with you.
Depending on your grounds for requesting flexible work hours, you can file for grievance if your appeals are unsuccessful. When the grievance doesn’t work, the next step is to file for an Employment Tribunal claim. However, you need to seek advice and ensure you have exhausted all options before going down this route. It’s also important to note that the time limit on Employment Tribunal cases is three months from when the request was rejected.
Trial Periods can Help
When the employer is not willing to shift grounds based on legitimate concerns, you can request a trial flexible working arrangement. During the trial period, you are legally required to extend the time of the final decision from your initial request.