Flexible working

Aims of the policy

  • To provide working arrangements and a workplace environment that will help employees as far as possible to combine their work and family responsibilities. 
  • To set out the options for flexible working arrangements and the procedures that should be followed where an application for flexible working is made.
  • To explain the factors that will be taken into consideration upon any application for flexible working arrangements.

Who is it for?

It should be communicated to all employees. It is particularly important that all levels of management are fully aware of the contents of the flexible work policy and that the appropriate procedure is followed whenever an employee makes a request.

All employees should be informed of the options for flexible working that may be available to them.

Essential elements

Flexible working arrangements

This involves making a change to an employee’s contract of employment in order to accommodate their wish to care for a child aged under 6 or a disabled child under 18.

Requests may be made for a change to:    

  • hours and/or days of work;
  • start and/or finishing times; and
  • location of work (for example to work from home).

Only one application for flexible working can be made each year.  Each year runs from the date when the application was made. 

Applications must be submitted no later than two weeks before the child’s 6th or 18th birthday, as appropriate.

Who can apply for flexible working?

Employees must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service on the day that the request is made.

The employee must be the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent of the child or be married to or the partner of the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent and have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.

Making the application

The application must be in writing and contain the following:

  • a statement that it is an application made under the statutory right to request Flexible Working arrangements;
  • the child’s name and date of birth with a statement confirming that the employee has or will have responsibility for his or her upbringing;
  • a statement confirming that the employee is, in relation to the child, the mother,  father, adopter,  guardian or foster parent, or married to or the partner of one of  these;
  • an explanation of what effect, if any, the employee considers the proposed  change would have on the current working arrangements and how this might be dealt with including any effect on work colleagues and business customers;
  • a request for a specific change under the Flexible Working options;
  • a proposed date on which the change would become effective;
  • confirmation as to whether a previous application has been made and if so when it was made; and
  • the date of the application and the employee’s signature.

The application should be made as soon as is reasonably practicable in advance of when the change is being requested to take effect.

Dealing with the application

An initial meeting will be held between the employee and the line manager and/or HR officer to consider the request. This will be done within 28 days of the date it is received. 

The employee will be entitled to bring a work colleague or a trade union representative with them to this and any subsequent meetings in connection with resolving the application. 

The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the requested changes to the work pattern in depth and to consider how it might be accommodated and also to discuss possible alternatives if appropriate.

The line manager/HR officer may be able to agree that the new working pattern will be put in place for a trial period in order to see how it would work before proceeding with the application.

Flexible work decision

The employee will be informed of the decision in writing within 14 days after the date of the meeting.

In addition the employee should be advised of their right to appeal and who this should be directed to where appropriate.

The grounds for refusal

There are specific grounds set out in the legislation upon which it is lawful to reject the application.

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • a detrimental impact on the business’s ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality or performance;
  • insufficiency of work in the periods when the employee proposes to work; or
  • planned structural changes.

Consideration will be given to all these factors when assessing the impact of the change and whether it should be accepted.

Rights of appeal

If the employee does not believe that their request has been properly considered they may appeal in writing within 14 days after receiving the written confirmation that their request has been rejected.

An appeal meeting will be arranged within 14 days of receiving notification that an appeal has been submitted. The employee has the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative at this meeting.

The employee should be informed of the outcome of their appeal in writing within 14 days after the date of the meeting. This will be the final decision.

Changing the terms and conditions of employment

Any request that is made and accepted will mean that there will be a permanent change to the employee’s terms and conditions unless a further application after a year under this policy is made and accepted or there is a change by mutual agreement.

The employee’s terms and conditions do not revert to the original terms after the child’s 6th or 18th birthday.

Key legislation

Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) Regulations 2002

Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002

Employment Rights Act 1996

Useful links

Department of Trade and Industry


Business Link

Equal Opportunities Commission


The Work and Families Bill will extend the right to request flexible working to carers of adults from April 2007.

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