Flexible working: What you’re entitled to

flexible working

Flexible working doesn’t just benefit employees and their families. Most employers now realise it also makes good business sense. They keep their experienced, trained-up staff (replacing you is expensive!). Plus they gain your loyalty. Here’s what’s involved.

Pros and cons of flexible working

Before you jump into changing your hours, think about how this will affect you.

On the plus side, you can spend more time with your children, and save on travel and childcare costs. But it may involve a drop in income and some work pressures. Bear in mind, too, it normally results in a permanent change to your contract.

If you’re considering giving up work due to childcare costs, consider flexing your hours first – because if you stop working altogether, you’ll go backwards in terms of your career and salary band when you decide to return.

Most who work flexibly see it as a good compromise, where they get the best of both!

Which type of flexible working?

There are different kinds of flexible working you can opt for, and the one you choose should depend on your priorities.

  • The main options
  • Flexitime: Flexing your hours around busy periods to allow time off at quieter periods
  • Annualised hours: Working term-times so you have the school holidays off
  • Compressed hours: Working your agreed hours over fewer days – say a 35 hour week over four days instead of five
  • Staggered hours: Starting/finishing work earlier or later
  • Working from home
  • Job share
  • Working part-time

These last two options – job share and working part-time – will mean fewer hours and a pay cut, so do your sums. If you still gain financially because you’re paying less in childcare, it’s worth it. Do calculations on what you take home after tax, as that’s what counts!

If it doesn’t much impact your finances between work and childcare, weigh up the two. Part-time workers often find their career doesn’t progress as quickly as those working full-time. But you’ll never be able to put back time with your children.

What are my flexible working rights?

Anyone can request flexible working from their employer. However, you have the right to request if you:

  • Are an employee, but not an agency worker or in the armed forces
  • Have already worked for your employer for 26 weeks continuously
  • Haven’t already made an application for flexible hours in the past year (you’re only allowed one application per year)

If you fit all of these, you then have the statutory right to ask if:

  • You have or soon will have parental responsibility for a child under 17 years old (or a disabled child under 18 years old who receives Disability Living Allowance)
  • Either you or your partner/spouse are the parent/guardian/foster parent applying to care for the child

When you apply you’ll need to confirm which of all these criteria you fit – but you don’t have to provide evidence. You also don’t have to justify why someone else can’t provide the parental care.

If it sounds complicated, this tool from Directgov can help you work out if you’re eligible.

If you are entitled to flexible working, your employer is legally obliged to seriously consider your request. They are allowed to decline, however, for good business reasons. So you have the right to request flexible working, not to have flexible working!

If you’re not legally entitled to request it, don’t feel you still can’t. Many employers still allow flexible working to keep employees happy and committed.

How to request flexible working

mum at home working with kid in backgroundThe process can take up to 14 weeks, so apply in advance.

Your application must be made in writing, with the current date and the date you’d like the flexible hours to start from. Say what working pattern you’d like. Most importantly for them, include how you think your proposed hours could affect your employer, and how any negative effects could be addressed. For help, run through this checklist on how to put together a case for flexible working.

You can do this by letter or email, fill in a form provided by your employer, or use the government’s flexible working template letter.

Although the process must be in writing, if you have a reasonable boss have a chat beforehand. If either of you is unsure, suggest a trial period first. This should flush up any potential problems and provide solutions for both of you. This way your written application will already address any hurdles before they arise.

Finally, if you know other flexible workers, ideally at your workplace, ask their opinion. As you already know, sharing information amongst us mums and dads is often the best source of knowledge out there!