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Requesting flexible working

Flexible working could help you to balance your work and caring responsibilities.

This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

You have the right to request flexible working if you are an employee with 26 weeks (six months) continuous employment at the time you make an application. 

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"The support my organisation has given me as a carer makes me more committed to them."

Some employers provide better rights to flexible working than the basic rights outlined in this guidance so it’s a good idea to check your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment, as it may provide you with better entitlement.

Note: For a summary of the statutory rights in work which may be of interest to you as a carer, download our factsheet 'Your rights in work' or our 'Let's talk about flexible working' guide for more information and tips.

Examples of flexible working

  • flexi-time - employees may be required to work within set times but outside of these 'core hours' have some flexibility in how they work their hours
  • home working or teleworking - teleworking is where employees spend part or all of their working week away from the workplace and homeworking is just one of the types of teleworking
  • job sharing - usually two employees share the work normally done by one person
  • part-time working - employees might work shorter days or fewer days in a week
  • term-time working - employees don’t work during school holidays and either take paid or unpaid leave or their salary is calculated pro-rata over the whole year
  • staggered hours - employees have various starting and finishing times meaning that goods and services are available outside traditional working hours
  • compressed hours - employees work their total hours over fewer working days eg, a ten day fortnight is compressed into a nine day fortnight
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When can I make a request?

You can make a request at any time as long as you have been employed continuously for 26 weeks. It is best to make the request as soon as possible – your employer has up to three months to make a decision.

The law gives you the right to make one application a year for flexible working, so it is important that you put forward the best case you can. However, your employer may be sympathetic if you find your circumstances have changed and you need to make a further application.

The request for flexible working must be made in writing and include:

  • the date of the request
  • an outline of the working pattern you would like
  • an explanation of the effect, if any, you think the proposed change might have on your job and how you think this could be dealt with
  • the date on which you would like the proposed change to start
  • a statement that it is a flexible working request
  • whether you have made any previous requests, and if so the date of those requests

You are not required to give reasons why you are making the request, but it may help your application if you give as much information as possible. Nor do you have to provide proof of your circumstances, ie that you are a carer, but again the more details you can give the better your chances of success may be.

The Acas Code of Practice recommends that an employee should be allowed to be accompanied to meetings to discuss flexible working requests.

It is worth thinking about whether a trial period might help. This gives both you and your employer an opportunity – without commitment and a permanent change to your contact – to test out the suggested working pattern to see what impact it has on both you and the organisation.

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Can my employer refuse my request?

Your employer can treat your request as withdrawn if you fail to attend two consecutive meetings, without good reason, to discuss the request for flexible working.

Your employer must inform you of their decision to withdraw your application. It’s therefore important that you inform your employer as soon as possible if and why you are not able to attend the meeting.

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What can I do if my employer refuses my request?

Your employer has a duty to deal with your request as soon as possible, within a reasonable time, in a reasonable manner, and must give careful consideration to your request. Your employer can only refuse your request if they have good business reasons for it and this should be explained in writing, including relevant and accurate facts.

Your employer must consider and make a decision on your request within three months of receiving it from you, unless you agree to an extension. 

The business reasons for refusing a request are:

  • burden of additional costs
  • inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • inability to recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on quality or performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes
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