Flexible Working

13 January 2021

For many employees, working 9-5 doesn’t fit with their lifestyles. So, many businesses have introduced flexible working arrangements for their staff.

However, flexible working takes many forms - with not all employees being eligible. So as an employer, you need to understand the different types and which of your employees can request it.

In this guide, we'll discuss the different forms of flexible working, how employees should request it, and why you might decline their request.

What is a flexible working arrangement?

Flexible working arrangements are an alternative to traditional working hours and days. They include working from home or flexible start and finish times.

These types of working arrangements are a common part of the modern business world.

As an employer, you must understand the different types of flexible working arrangements you can provide to your employees.

What are the different types of flexible working arrangements?

Flexible working takes up many forms, so you must become familiar with each one. By doing this, you can understand why they might work for your employees.

Part-time working

A part-time working pattern is when an employee is contracted to work less than the basic, full-time hours.

For example, part-time hours might be used by parents who have young children and have childcare commitments.

Working from home

Working from home is when an employee spends all or part of the week working from their house.

Home working has become more of a popular choice following the COVID-19 pandemic. A work-from-home policy being a useful tool for staff retention.

Remote working

Remote working is similar to home working but an employee chooses to work somewhere else, for example, at a coffee shop.

Working remotely is also known as mobile or teleworking.

Job sharing

Job sharing is when two people or more people work part-time but make up a full-time job.

This is a useful working pattern for multiple employees with young families or students.

Compressed hours

Compressed hours are when an employee works their standard working hours, but in fewer working days. It's important to remember that this working arrangement isn't a reduction in hours.

For example, a full-time staff member could work 37.5 hours over 4 days.


Flexi-time gives employees the freedom to control their working hours. It allows staff to choose when they start and finish work.

However as an employer, you have the final say. There may be limits to when your staff can start or end their working day.

Phased retirement

Phased retirement gives older workers the chance to reduce their hours in the time leading up to their retirement.

For example, an employee could choose to work fewer days and hours in their last six months of work.

 man writing on a notepad in front of a laptop

Why would an employee request flexible working?

An employee may want to change their working hours for a number of reasons, such as caring for a family member. However there may be a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Looking to retire in the near future.
  • Returning to further education.
  • Returning from maternity or paternity leave.

Do all employees have the right to request flexible working?

No, not all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. However, some employees have the statutory right to make the request.

As an employer, you need to understand who is and who isn't able to apply.

Statutory request

Some employees are entitled to make a statutory request for flexible working arrangements.

Making a statutory request for flexible working means making a request under law. However, to be eligible to make a statutory request the employee must have met the following criteria:

  • Worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
  • Not be an agency worker (however agency workers returning from parental leave have the right to make a request).
  • Not have requested to work flexibly in the last 12 months, whether it was accepted or not.

The request should be made in a written format and should include the following:

  • The date: Both of the request and when the employee wishes flexible working to begin.
  • The intent: It must be clear that this is a formal statutory request.
  • The reason: The employee must state why they wish to engage in flexible working and how it would change their role within the company. This would include how to address any potential issues with it and how it would benefit the company.

Employees may only make one application for flexible working per year.

Non-statutory request

Employees who don't have the statutory right to make a request, can make a non-statutory request for flexible working.

Not all businesses allow this, so if this is the case - you should include it within your employment contracts.

Can an employee withdraw their request for flexible working?

Yes, an employee can withdraw their request. To do so, they must tell you in writing their intention to withdraw it.

 three people having a meeting

Do you have to accept a flexible working request?

No, you don't have to accept a flexible working request. But you must make a decision to respond to the employee within three months.

You need to understand when you may have to decline a request for flexible working.

When is an employer allowed to decline a flexible working request?

As an employer, you must make a decision on flexible working requests based on business circumstances rather than personal circumstances.

These are some of the reasons for refusal:

  • Burden of additional business costs.
  • Unable to recruit additional staff to cover.
  • It'll have a negative impact on quality or performance.
  • If you have planned structural changes in your company.

If you decline the request you should write to the employee to explain the business reasons behind your decision.

Can an employee appeal against your flexible working decision?

Yes, if the employee disagrees with your decision they have the right to appeal. They can do this informally by having a one-to-one meeting, or formally by appealing in writing.

You have no legal right to consider their appeal. But, if the employee is still unhappy they may raise a formal grievance or a claim at a tribunal.

 woman typing on a laptop next to a coffee

Can you provide a trial period for flexible working?

Yes, as an employer you can provide a trial period after accepting the flexible working request. However, both parties must agree to this beforehand.

The trial period is useful to see if the new working arrangements work for both employer and employee before making it a permanent change.

Can flexible working affect statutory employment rights?

No, an employee working flexibly doesn't affect their statutory employment rights. But, it could potentially impact annual leave. For example, claiming unfair dismissal or unlawful discrimination.

Employees on flexible working arrangements are also legally entitled to maternity leave.

Do you have to make changes to an employee's contract for flexible working?

Yes, when you as an employer agree to a flexible working request you must change the employment contract.

Make sure you explain to the employee that if you agree to their request, a permanent change will be made to their contract.

Can you be taken to an employment tribunal over flexible working?

As an employer, you have a responsibility to deal with such requests with respect. If you don't handle a request in a reasonable manner, you may be taken to an employment tribunal.

Be aware that providing your employees with worse employment terms and conditions due to their new working arrangements can also lead to a claim. For example, losing out on employee benefits. Unless it’s agreed to.

You should also act fairly with all employees asking for flexible working. For example, offering part-time work to one employee and not the other. This could lead to a grievance being raised against you. It's best practice to act fairly and consistently with all your employees.

 woman working on a laptop in a cafe

What are the advantages of flexible working?

There are many benefits to allowing your employees to work flexibly. Such as:

  • You'll retain your best employees who may have looked to move to a more flexible working pattern.
  • Flexible working may increase productivity and engagement.
  • Employees can manage both their working demands and personal commitments.
  • It shows you care for your employee's well-being.
  • It may increase staff retention and decrease employee turnover.

As well as the advantages, you need to be aware of the disadvantages that come with flexible working.

What are the disadvantages of flexible working?

There are a few disadvantages to allowing your staff to work flexibly. Such as:

  • Some employees may take advantage of flexible working. For example, winding down towards the end of the day.
  • It's harder to form working relationships and a workplace culture if your employees don't see each other very often.
  • The lines between working life and personal life can become blurred.

As an employer, you should create a flexible working policy so employees know where they stand with flexible working.

What should you include in a flexible working policy?

If you choose to create a flexible working policy, you will need to include:

  • Who is eligible for flexible working.
  • How to submit a flexible working request.
  • How you'll respond to a flexible working request.
  • Right to appeal a decision.
  • Information surrounding trial periods.

You should include any flexible working policies within your employee handbook. This should be shared with your employees at the start of their employment.

Get expert advice on flexible working from Peninsula

In the modern business world, many companies have started to offer their employees flexible working arrangements.

Flexible working takes many forms - with not all employees being eligible. So as an employer, you need to understand the different types and which of your employees can request it.

Peninsula offers you expert 24/7 HR advice and support, helping you create an inclusive and diverse workforce. Contact us on 0800 051 3687.

Suggested Resources