On returning to work | Flexible working

Yes. If you have been employed for 26 weeks you can request flexible working under the formal right to do so explained in the ACAS Code: //www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/e/Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf. See also the guidance: //www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking

If you have been working for your employer for fewer than 26 weeks, you can still make a request. A refusal by your employer, which is not justified, could be indirect sex discrimination.

See: //www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/e/Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf. See also the guidance: //www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking

You can ask to change:

  • the hours you work
  • the time you work
  • working from a different place.

This would cover:

  • A reduction in hours, for example, from 35 to 25 hours.
  • Compressed hours, for example, working 35 hours but over four days.
  • Flexi-time, for example, flexible start and finish times.
  • Homeworking, for example, working from home for one day a week, or a few hours every day.
  • Job-sharing.
  • Requests for fixed rather than variable shifts.
  • Term-time working.

If you are sure you want to work part-time or change your working pattern when you return to work from maternity leave, you may want to discuss this early. This allows you to arrange childcare and your employer to make plans. 

If you are not certain that you want to change your working pattern, it is advisable to wait before asking for a permanent change in your hours.  

An informal discussion with your employer may lead to an agreement about a different work pattern. If an informal discussion does not lead to an agreement, and you have been employed by the employer for more than 26 weeks, you can make a request under the statutory right to request procedure, as set out in the ACAS Code on Flexible Working. 

You must make a written, dated application setting out:

  • The proposed change to working conditions and date of proposed change.
  • The effect of the change on the work and how to minimise the impact of the change. 
  • A statement that you are making a statutory request with details of previous applications.

If the change is because of a disability, or to care for a child or dependant, you should say this, so it can be taken into account; unreasonable refusal of flexible working may be sex or disability discrimination. See: //www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/e/Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf 

See also the guidance: //www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking 

Following a request for flexible working, it is good practice for your employer to have a meeting with you and discuss your request as soon as possible. It would also be good practice to allow you to be accompanied to any meeting, if you would like this. 

Your employer must consider the request in a reasonable way taking account of:

  • The benefits of the requested changes for you and the business, considering the benefits against any adverse business impact.
  • Avoiding discrimination, as a refusal could be indirect sex discrimination.

Your employer must give you a decision as soon as possible, at least within three months of the request, and the decision should be in writing. If your

employer agrees to the request for flexible working, they should write to you setting out the agreed changes to your working pattern and the date it will start. This will usually be a permanent change to your contract unless you ask for it to be on a temporary basis and your employer agrees.

Your employer can refuse a request under the formal right to request procedure for one of the eight reasons set out in the ACAS Code on Flexible Working, which are:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work, and
  • a planned structural change to the business.

If your employer refuses your request for flexible working without a justifiable reason this might be indirect sex discrimination.

You can use the ACAS Arbitration Scheme to resolve any dispute with your employer. See: //www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2006

Your employer does not have to agree to an appeal but it is good practice to allow an appeal so you should check your employer’s procedure and appeal if allowed to do so. You can then put forward further arguments as to why your job could be done on the working patterns you have requested and deal with your employer’s concerns.

It is for the employer to show that full-time working is necessary for the job you do. It is for an employment tribunal to decide if there are good business reasons to refuse your request. You will have to decide whether to compromise and accept an alternative part-time role so that you continue to have a job with this employer or resign and claim constructive dismissal. 

Yes, it will usually be a permanent change to your employment contract unless you ask to work flexibly on a temporary basis and your employer agrees.

You must not be treated badly as a result of your request to change your working pattern or hours. For example, if you are not promoted or you are made redundant, because you are working fewer hours, or had asked to do so, this may be indirect sex discrimination.

No. If you are made redundant because you are working part-time this is likely to be indirect sex discrimination unless your employer can show that the job requires a full-time worker. Any redundancy payment is likely to be based on your part-time hours, unless you can negotiate otherwise.

If your employer does not follow the ACAS Code on flexible working, you may claim against your employer for:

  • Failure to consider the flexible working application in a reasonable manner.
  • Failure to notify you of a decision within three months of your application.
  • Refusing the application without a specified business reason.
  • Disadvantaging or dismissing you for making a request.

A tribunal may order the employer to reconsider your application or make an award of compensation up to a maximum of eight weeks’ pay.

Last updated: 20 Jun 2016