Flexible working is now commonplace - from reduced hours to working from home.

Everything you need to know about flexible working

What exactly is flexible working?

Flexible working is any type of working arrangement that’s different to your usual one. Often this means working part-time rather than full-time, but it could mean working from home or having different start and finish times. All employees have a legal right to request flexible working if you want to:

  • Work fewer hours (part-time working)
  • Working the same hours but fewer days (compressed hours)
  • Change your start and finish time (flexi-time)
  • Work from home or elsewhere (remote working)
  • Share the job with someone else

What are the benefits of flexible working?

There are lots of reasons why people want a more flexible way of working. It could be to avoid a busy, stressful or costly commute. Working from home may cut this out completely, whilst a different start or finish time could be more convenient for public transport or help you to miss the rush hour traffic.

Working flexible hours may be necessary to fit around your other commitments – such as studying, childcare or other caring responsibilities. This might be for a short period to deal with personal matters without taking time off for example. Or you may need part-time work on an ongoing basis. 

Others still choose flexible work so they can have a better work life balance. Some employers offer flexible working because of this as it’s a good way to boost staff retention and employee satisfaction. 

How do I request flexible working?

If you’re employed and have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you have a legal right to make a flexible working request. Your employer has to consider your request fairly and make a decision within 3 months. Regardless of your circumstances, all flexible working requests must be treated in the same way.

You should submit your request in writing and explain clearly the changes you’d like to make and when you’d like the changes to start. You’ll need to include how the change could be dealt with by the business and if your request relates to something covered by the Equality Act 2010 (such as the need for reasonable adjustments due to a disability for example).

It’s also a good idea to include any benefits the change might have to your work, the business or your co-workers.

Your employer should set up a meeting to talk to you about your request before they make a decision. If your request is approved, the change must be agreed in writing. If your request is turned down, you can appeal the decision if you think it was wrong or unfair.

ACAS has lots of good advice about how to make a flexible working request here


What type of flexible jobs are available?

Flexible working might already be available within your current company, you just might not know it. Speak to your line manager or someone in the HR department, before submitting a more formal request. Make sure you’ve thought about why you need to work more flexibly and what sort of flexibility you require.

If they don’t offer flexible options and you need to look elsewhere, there’s lots of opportunities available.

When it comes to working part-time, vacancies have risen to an all-time high reflecting a big shift in the way we work. They’re also more favourable in the current climate, when employers may prefer to cut back hours as a way to reduce costs or whilst demand is lower.

Some industries have always preferred or needed to employ people on a part-time basis. There’s lots of jobs within the education, health and social care sectors or working elsewhere in the public sector on a part-time basis for example. Similarly, you might be more likely to find part-time work in retail or hospitality, particularly if you don’t want to work the traditional 9 to 5.

If working remotely is your priority, more and more positions are now based from home. Whether it’s general administration or a role in the tech sector, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection you should be able to set up from home.

And don’t forget the ultimate type of flexible working is working on a temporary or freelance basis.

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