Flexible working request

Making a flexible working request

While many people will be aware of the two main types of flexible working request, there are in fact three options. These are statutory requests, non-statutory requests and employer scheme requests. We will now take a look at the pros and cons of the different types of flexible working request, and which best suits your particular situation.

What types of flexible working requests are open to you?

There is a general misconception that just because you are eligible for a statutory flexible working request, this is the only route you should consider. Whatever happens, you will qualify for a non-statutory request and possibly an employer scheme request. Before you take any further steps, check to see which options are available to you.

Advantages and disadvantages of different flexible working requests

We will now take a look at the various advantages and disadvantages of statutory, non-statutory and employer scheme flexible working requests.

Statutory request

This is the more formal type of flexible working request, with various issues to consider such as:-

  • Eligibility – you can only make a statutory request if you are eligible
  • Limited requests – you can only make one statutory request per 12 months
  • Protection – in the event that your employer unlawfully refuses your request, you can take further action under employment law
  • Negotiations – when negotiating a statutory request for flexible working, there is a maximum three-month duration, although this can be extended with agreement from all parties
  • Alternatives – it may be quicker and easier to look at the non-statutory and employer scheme (if available) options

It is not difficult to see the more formal nature associated with a statutory flexible working request. It is also worth remembering, as we mentioned above, just because you are eligible for this type of request does not mean that alternatives should not be considered.

Non-statutory request

A non-statutory flexible working request is less formal and includes more flexible negotiations with your employer. Some of the issues to consider here include:-

  • Eligibility – there is no eligibility criteria as such, if you work for the company then you can make a non-statutory request
  • Limited requests – there is no limit on the number of non-statutory requests open to you
  • Protection – there is no formal protection when you choose to go down the non-statutory route, although if you experience discrimination, you could involve an employment tribunal
  • Negotiations – a non-statutory request is very useful for temporary or relatively small changes to your working structure
  • Alternatives – a non-statutory request is the more flexible available and can be a useful means of trialling a temporary change before making a formal statutory request

While a statutory request gives you more protection, and adds a more rigid structure to the process, there are certainly some benefits in going down the non-statutory route.

Employer scheme request

As employer scheme requests are not protected under employment law, they are an option but not an obligation for your employer, and the terms and conditions can vary significantly. It is important that you request details of an employer flexible working scheme prior to deciding on the most appropriate option for you.

When considering an employer scheme request, thankfully, your basic employment rights can only be enhanced and not diminished by any formal or informal changes. If the terms of your employer scheme attempted to rewrite your basic employment rights, this would not stand up in a court of law. Indeed, it may well leave your employer open to accusations of discrimination and potential legal action.

Submitting your flexible working request

We will now take a look at the type of information required when submitting a flexible working request. The more information you can provide, the more chance of your employer taking your request seriously.

Information required when submitting a statutory request

This is the more formal route and you are obliged to respect the following process:-

  • Statutory requests must be in written format
  • Documentation must be dated accordingly
  • Make your employer aware this is a statutory request for flexible working
  • Provide details of previous applications

There are also four additional elements of information you must include in your statutory request:-

  • Detailed changes

At the outset it is important that you make your employer aware, in detail, of proposed changes to your working practice and the date you wish to switch. This is the basis from which your request will be considered.

  • Impact on employer/colleagues

The more information you can provide the better chance of your employer understanding your request. So, you will also need to supply details of the impact your changes will have on your employer and your colleagues. While noting any negative impact, focus on the potential positive impact of your changes.

  • Instances of discrimination

While the majority of flexible working requests will simply be a response to a change in your lifestyle, there can on occasion be other reasons. For example, if you believed you were disadvantaged as a consequence of your age, sex, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation, you can request adjustments to your working hours/conditions. There is no place for discrimination in the workplace.

  • Reasons for your request

Legally, you are not required to disclose why you are seeking a change in your working hours/conditions. In reality, the more your employer knows of your change in circumstances, the greater the chances of a positive outcome. There will be occasions where your employer may offer additional assistance, if they are aware of your predicament, so consider this option carefully.

The majority of information required with a statutory request is fairly straightforward, although there may be some surprises in there.

Information required when submitting a non-statutory request

As the term suggests, there is no formal structure with regards to a non-statutory request for flexible working. However, it would be sensible to provide:-

  • A written request
  • Appropriately dated

It is also important that you consider the following:-

  • Detailed changes

It is essential that you leave no room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation of your request. Clearly define your proposed changes and the date on which you would like them to start.

  • Impact on employer/colleagues

The greater the positive impact on your employer/colleagues the more chance that your request for flexible working will be cleared. It may also be useful to list any potential downsides (showing a detailed understanding of the situation) although try to focus on the positives.

  • Reasons for your request

In tandem with a statutory request, you are not lawfully obliged to give any reason why you are seeking to change your working practices. However, from a practical point of view it seems a little strange to expect your employer to make changes without providing them with further details.

There is an upside to telling your employer the reasons for your request. If for example it is a consequence of childcare arrangements, a refusal of your request could be deemed discriminative. Something to think about.

Information required when submitting an employer scheme request

The information required when submitting an employer scheme request will depend on the terms and conditions. In reality, the basic requirement is likely to be similar to that for a non-statutory request. However, it is important that you ask your employer for details.

Showing an understanding of the impact on your employer/colleagues

Unfortunately, there will be many flexible working requests which are simply not possible or perhaps the parties involved have not considered the wider picture. As a consequence, it is important that you demonstrate you have considered the pros and cons for your employer/colleagues. You may be able to detail ways in which your changes could create a positive impact for the business.

The more information you provide the better, but as a minimum you should consider the following:-

  • Suggest how specific colleagues may be able to provide cover as and when your working conditions change
  • Ensure there is no room for misinterpretation/misunderstanding regarding your request
  • Where possible, see if you can present a number of alternative flexible working changes to accommodate your employer/colleagues
  • If multiple options are submitted, make sure that your employer knows your preferred option
  • Explain in detail how your workload will be covered under your proposed changes
  • On occasion, you may be able to offer additional hours with notice – make sure your employer is aware of this
  • Double down on your commitment to your employer and your colleagues

Even if your employer thinks that your change in working conditions may leave you one step away from leaving the company, they can’t discriminate against you in any way. Amidst all of the legal requirements and protections, it is important to try and maintain a strong working relationship with both your employer and your colleagues.

The timing of your flexible working request

There are different issues to take into consideration regarding the timing of both a statutory and non-statutory flexible working request.

Statutory request

You will only be eligible to make a statutory request once you have completed 26 consecutive weeks with your employer. If you foresee an immediate need to change your working practices after you have started, it may be an idea to plan ahead so that at week 26 you have the information to hand.

Under the statutory framework, you can only make one request every 12 months. However, in the event that your request is time critical, and you can’t wait, you could make a non-statutory request.

Non-statutory request

The only eligibility for making a non-statutory request is to be in employment. You can quite literally make a request as soon as you begin your employment, although whether this is a good idea or not is debatable. It is also important to know that consideration of flexible working requests will be on a first-come first-served basis. So, make sure you get your request in as soon as possible!

If you’re making a request under your employer’s flexible working scheme, you will need to refer to the conditions of the scheme.

Taking the next step

With a statutory request, your employer is formally obliged to respond and enter a period of negotiation. The situation is different for non-statutory requests, where there is no obligation on your employer to either discuss or agree your request. However, it is highly unlikely that an employer would simply dismiss your request without explanation.

Time-limit to consider your request

There is no statutory time limit for consideration of a non-statutory request. There is however a formal process for a statutory request. The whole process, including negotiations, right of appeal, should take no longer than three months. It is possible to extend this timeline if all parties are in agreement.

Do your research!

The more detailed your flexible working request, the more chance that your employer will give it due consideration. There may be pros and cons which your employer has failed to appreciate, some of which may swing the process in your favour.

When making a flexible working request, all parties need to appreciate the impact that any actions may have on their long-term relationship.