Every employee, who has been employed for at least 26 weeks, has the legal right to ask to change their working hours. This is known as the right to request flexible working.
It is a right to request to change your hours, not a right to insist that they be changed. But the law requires your employer to consider your request and deal with it in a sensible way.
What changes can I ask for?
The law states that you can ask for changes about the number of hours you have to work; the times when you have to work; and where you have to work.
This means you could ask to work fewer hours in the working week by reducing the number of days you work or the number of hours you work on each day. You could also to ask to work from home on some or all of your working days or from another of your employer’s places of work.
Zara works 35 hours a week (working five 7-hour days). She is also doing a part-time degree. She would like more time off during the week to help with her studies but doesn’t want to lose any pay. Zara could ask to work the same number of hours but over fewer days. This is called “compressed hours”. So, she could ask to work 8.75 hours a day over four days.
Jamie works full-time. He would like to ask to change to part-time hours, working 3 days a week instead of 5 so that he can look after his baby for two days each week when his partner returns to work.
Fatima currently works 9.00am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. She would like to ask to change her hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to 9.30am to 2.30pm so that she can take her child to school and pick her up at the end of the school day. Her partner is going to do the drop offs and pick ups on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
It takes Craig 70 minutes to get to work and home again at night. He would like to work from home 2 days a week to reduce the time he spends travelling to work each day. He can ask to do this.
Amber would like to spend more time with her children during the school holidays. She can ask to work “term time only” so that she has each school holiday off.
Some employees might need changes like these to be made if they have a disability. The law offers more rights and protection in this situation. See Discrimination Claims.
How do I ask for the change?
It is important that you ask for the change in the right way and the law states how it must be done. If you don’t ask for the change in the right way, your employer won’t have to follow the rules.
When asking to change your hours, you need to:
- put your request in writing;
- put the date on it;
- say that it is a statutory request (this means that it is a request being made under the legal right to ask for changes);
- say what change you would like;
- say from when you would like the change to start;
- say whether you have made a request before and, if you have, when that was; and
- say what impact you think the change might have on your employer and how that might be dealt with.
You should give some thought to this last point as you might be able to lessen any concerns your employer might have about the change.
What happens after I’ve asked for the change?
Your employer needs to consider the change and deal with it reasonably i.e. seriously and sensibly. If they are happy to make the change, they can just tell you that. They should also give you written notice of the change within one month.
If they are not sure about the change, they may ask to meet with you to discuss it.
Some employers will have a policy on flexible working which they should follow.
I was ill the day my employer was going to talk to me about my request. Can I ask them to re-arrange the meeting?
Yes. It would be unreasonable if your employer did not re-arrange the meeting you could not attend due to illness.
But if you did not have a good reason for not attending and do not attend either the first meeting or the re-arranged meeting, then the employer can assume that you no longer wish to make the change. The same applies to any appeal meetings. This is known as treating the request as “withdrawn”. The employer should tell you they are treating the request as withdrawn.
Can my employer say “no” to my request?
Yes – but only for certain reasons. The law says an employer can turn down a request for the following reasons:
- if any additional costs would be too much;
- if the change meant the employer could not deal with customers as well as before;
- if the employer could not re-organise work between its other staff;
- if the change meant the employer would need to recruit new staff because of the change but couldn’t;
- if the change would reduce the quality of the employer’s goods or services;
- if the change would have a negative impact on performance; and
- if there would not be enough work for the employee to do at the times the employee wants to work.
My employer didn’t agree to my request. Can I appeal?
Your employer does not have to let you appeal but an appeal is one way for the employer to show that your request was dealt with reasonably.
How long does my employer have to decide whether to agree to my request?
Your employer has 3 months in which to decide whether to agree to your request and to deal with any appeal process it offers.
You can agree to a longer period if you wish.
My employer turned down my request. Can I ask again?
You cannot make a request again for another 12 months (from the date your request was made).
My employer hasn’t dealt with my request properly. What can I do?
If your employer does not deal with your request properly, bases their decision to reject your request on facts that are wrong; or treats your request as withdrawn when they should not have done, you can complain to an employment tribunal. Any claim should be made within 3 months subject to Early ACAS Conciliation.
A woman wanting to work part-time due to childcare responsibilities might also have a claim for indirect sex discrimination if her request is refused. See Discrimination Claims.
What will the tribunal do?
A tribunal cannot order your employer to allow the change but they can order your employer to think about your request again. It can also order your employer to pay you compensation of up to 8 weeks’ pay.
My manager referred to me as “trouble” after I asked to change my hours and now won’t allow me to go on a training course. Can they do this?
The law protects you from poor treatment due to making a legal request to change your hours. Again, you would have 3 months to bring a claim in the employment tribunal (subject to Early ACAS Conciliation) and a tribunal may award you compensation.
With an honest and ethical approach to law, at Truth Legal you will have access to our specialist team of lawyers to help you with all your employment law matters. Our Head of Employment Law is Navya Shekhar, an employment law solicitor with over 10 years’ experience.
If you believe your request to change your hours has not been handled properly or that your employer has treated you poorly because of your request – call us on 01423 788538 or contact us here.