Flexibility in the workplace has many meanings. You can work flexibly by working shorter hours. You can work from home for most of the week. Or you can even share a job with someone else. Of course, flexible working means that you and your employer may need to change mindsets a bit. You may need to develop your skillset. Be more open-minded and focus on your core tasks even more than you did when you were working full time. We’ll explore these flexible working ideas more below. First, though, let’s look at what working flexibly really means.
What does it mean to work flexibly?
A lot of people interested in flexible working think that it means cutting your hours down. While this is true in some flexible working cases, there is a lot more to it. To work flexibly is to work in a different way than your employers standard, which probably means it’s different to how you’re working now. For example, you could be working the same hours, but over fewer days. You could also do your regular amount of hours but with different start and finish times that many businesses call ‘flexitime’. In this case, your company may require you to be at work from 10 am to 3 pm, for example, but you can complete the rest of your hours when it suits you.
Flexible working can also mean working part of your hours from home or remotely. Working flexibly can mean exchanging weekend hours for weekday hours too. Flexible working is a broad umbrella. For the most part, flexible working means that you are working hours, days, or from a place that wasn’t initially in your contract.
So, if you are considering asking to work flexibly, it’s a good idea to understand the meaning of it. Countless flexible working requests get declined, the TUC stated 1 in 3 were declined in 2019 from a poll of 2700 people. More employers are agreeing to flexible working requests, especially since the mass remote working as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, for your employer to agree to flexible working, they need to know what you need and evaluate the impact of the change on the business. Here’s a detailed look at the types of flexible working to help with your request.
What are the types of flexible working?
Flexible working arrangements can include:
- Changing the hours you work within the day with flexible hours or flexitime
- Reducing the amount you work from full-time to part-time
- Sharing your role with another employee in a Job Share to reduce how much you work
- Working your usual amount of hours, but doing more hours each day to take time off in lieu with compressed hours
- Working remotely for all or part of your hours
- Only working during the school term time, not through the school holidays with term-time hours
- Having a set amount of hours you must work over the year with annualised hours
- Changing your start and finish times generally from a set schedule with staggered hours.
- Adjusting the days you work – moving from weekends to weekdays, for example
These are most of the types of flexible working arrangements available. Your employer may not offer all of these flexible working arrangements. Still, your employer may be open to different flexible working arrangements if it makes sense for the business so discuss what you need with them. Employers in the UK are becoming more accommodating about working flexibly, ensure you give them a clear understanding of your requirements in the application or flexible working request. Your application for a flexible working arrangement needs to be good, so make sure you cover all the benefits you see from making the change. Here’s some more information about flexible working arrangements to explain why.
What is a flexible working arrangement?
‘Arrangement’ makes flexible working seem like an under table type of deal between you and your boss. However, the arrangement is just as formal as the contract you signed when you first joined the company. A flexible working arrangement will change the contract you signed with the company. At first, the arrangement will likely be on a trial basis. Just as when you start with a company, your employer needs to see if flexible working can work. You also get to see if flexibility is what you expected and suits your lifestyle.
This trial can last 3-6 months (longer if one party feels it’s justified). If the new arrangements are working for you and your employer after this time, the arrangement can become permanent or set for review after an agreed period, say 12 months. Once flexible working arrangements become permanent, it can be challenging to go back to your original contracted working pattern. This is particularly true if you’re now sharing your hours with another employee in a Job Share.
What if you only need a few months or a year of flexible working, though? You can request a temporary change to your contract. If, for example, you need to look after your kids after school, but the situation will change in a few months. In this case, a temporary, flexible working arrangement will be put in place if your employer accepts your application. With temporary, flexible working arrangements, you can extend the time frame if you provide enough notice.
The reason that flexible working is called an ‘application’ is that you are already under contract. Flexible working is just as formal as your contract and will change your employment terms in some respects. For example, switching from full-time to part-time will mean that you get the same wage but on a pro-rata basis. Your hours are likely in your contract, and, of course, these are likely to change. So, think of a flexible working arrangement as an extension or a change to your contract of employment.
How to apply to work flexibly?
There are two ways of applying to work flexibly:
- A statutory request
- A non-statutory request
A statutory flexible working request
This request to work flexibly is made under employment law in the UK. There is a process that you and your employer must follow, set out in the law. Not all employees are entitled to make a flexible working request this way, though.
Are you entitled to make a Statutory Flexible Working Request?
You must have been working for the company for 26 weeks (in a row) on the date of your application. You must also be an employee, not an agency worker, for example. Also, suppose you’ve requested flexible working in the last 12 months (accepted or otherwise). In that case, you are not entitled to make another statutory request until twelve months have passed. There are also some special rules if you’re employed as an employee shareholder. You will be aware of being employed like this as it’s a special contract, info can be found here from the UK Government.
If you don’t meet the criteria for a statutory request, you can still make a non-statutory request.
A non-statutory flexible working request
A non-statutory request for flexible working differs to the statutory version as it isn’t made under employment law. This means there are no set procedures for this request; your employer will determine them. Make sure you ask your manager or the HR team, how they work and if there is a process they follow. If you make a non-statutory request, it’s still best to do it in writing and make what you’re asking for very clear. It can be beneficial to make a non-statutory request depending on what your employer’s process is, as it may have more favourable terms. Suppose you are asking for temporary flexibility or a minor change. In that case, it is often beneficial to make a non-statutory request as they are usually agreed more rapidly and not tied to the 12-month rules of reapplying.
If your employer has a flexible working scheme of their own, this is usually the best place to start. In this case, the flexible working rules may be better. For example, it could be open to any employee, not just those with 26 weeks of service. Still, though, make sure your request to work flexibly is clear and ideally in writing.
How does flexible working benefit me?
Flexible working can benefit you in many ways. More and more people are looking to achieve a better balance between their work and home life. Flexible working lets you adjust the balance so you are empowered to pick when, where, or how much you work.
Whether you need less stress at work or more time with your kids, flexible working can provide that. It can also benefit you if you have an elderly relative that needs more care or you are returning to work after an illness. Working flexibly is a fantastic way of gaining control back of your life. If you are stressed or unhappy, or you do not have the hours in the day, think about flexible working. More and more employers agree to flexible working arrangements because the evidence points to happier, less stressed employees who phone in sick a lot less. When a business’ employees are happier, they work harder because they aren’t worried about who will pick the kids up, or that no one is there to take care of their mum or dad, for example.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who benefits from flexible working?
Both employees and employers benefit from flexible working. Employees report being more satisfied with their job, increased wellbeing, and reduced commuting costs. Employers find employees productivity increases when they are satisfied with their jobs and have a better work life balance. Additionally, employers can reduce costs by decreasing the amount of office space required and lower their carbon footprint by reducing how often people commute to the office.
Is working from home flexible working?
Working from home is one of the type of flexible working recognised by the UK Government. Any change to the hours, location and amount you work that is different to your employers standard is considered to be flexible working.
How do you ask to work from home?
As working from home is a recognised type of flexible working, you should follow the standard ways to ask your employer to work flexibly. Check what your employer’s flexible working policy is before making a statutory request under employment law as their policy may be more generous than the government-mandated requirements.
How does a job share work?
A Job Share is where a full-time role is shared amongst two people who actively hand over the role between themselves so there is always someone actively working throughout the week. As the job remains full-time, Job Shares are a good option for roles that can’t be made part-time and for people who want to avoid being contacted on days off when out of the office.
Flexible working benefits millions of people around the world. If you think you need flexible working hours, think about the conditions that will help you the most. Make your request as clear as possible whilst also selling any benefits for your employer. Be open as to why it will be beneficial to you and your work. Remember that to work flexibly can mean you move from full-time to part-time. It can also mean that you compress your working hours into fewer days. There are plenty of ways to work flexibly. Once you identify the way that flexible working hours can benefit you most, send in a request and begin working your way.