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The right to request flexible working

Key points

  • Employees must have 26 weeks continuous employment at the date the application is made.
  • Employers have statutory duty to consider applications.
  • Once agreed it becomes a permanent change to the contract of employment.
  • An employee has the right to appeal if necessary against the outcome.
  • Negotiate an agreement if requested hours are not possible.
  • Only one application can be made in a 12 months period.

There are many forms of flexible working. It can describe a place of work, for example, home-working, or a type of contract, such as a temporary contract. Other common variations include: part-time working, flexitime, job sharing and shift working.

Parents of children aged 16 or under, or disabled children under the age of eighteen (Parental Leave), have the right to apply to their employer to work more flexibly if they 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

The request can cover hours of work, times of work and place of work and may include requests for different patterns of work.

Changes coming in 2014 to flexible working regulations

The Government is extending the right to request flexible working to all employees; removing the current statutory procedure for considering requests. Instead employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner; however, employers will have the flexibility to refuse requests on business grounds.

On 30 June 2014 the Flexible Working Regulations will be amended. This will mean that the right to request flexible working will be extended to cover all employees after 26 weeks' service, rather than only those with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and certain carers.

The draft code of practice and good practice guidance on the new regulations are available here:

Please note the code of practice is in draft mode and currently under parliamentary scrutiny. When this process has been completed, Acas will make the final code of practice available on this page. 

On 29 April 2013, Acas Chief Executive, Anne Sharp and BIS Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson, headed up a panel of HR specialists to discuss the Government's proposals to allow new parents to share a year's leave, and the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The other speakers included Julia Tybura - Managing Director Zenon Consulting, Angela Gardner - Senior Manager in KPMG's Diversity and Inclusion team and Liz Gardner Head of Policy at Working Families. A video of the event is included below:

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