Things happen in life that affect how much we can work. It is possible to request to reduce your working hours with your employer. If you qualify, you have a legal right to make a formal flexible working request. Your employer must consider your request carefully, and can only decline based on a defined set of reasons.
Life events such as a growing family, childcare obstacles, and a decline in health can all impact the hours we can physically work.
We take a look at flexible working requests, what process should be followed, and your rights.
See Also: Can your employer reduce your working hours? Our guide looks at the law around work rotas and changes to work contracts when the request comes from the employer.
How to Request a Reduction in Working Hours – Flexible Working Request
It is important to know your rights as an employee when it comes to making flexible working requests. There are three criteria you must meet before making the request.
- Have you been with your current employer for at least 26 weeks?
- Are you a contracted employee?
- Is this your first flexible working request in 12 months?
Meeting the above criteria gives you the right to make a statutory request. You can still make a non statutory request if you don’t.
This means you don’t have the same legal protections, and your request will be dealt with informally.
Making a Flexible Working Request
Once you have established that you do qualify for requesting a reduction in work hours, you can begin the process.
The steps below take you through the process:
- Write To Your Employer.
You need to write a formal letter or email to your employer with your request for a reduction in hours. Some employers will require you to use a specific form for this request so it is worth checking.
- The Employer Considers The Request.
Next, your employer will take some time to consider your request. This can take up to 3 months, sometimes longer.
- A Decision Will Be Reached.
You will be informed if your request has been authorised or rejected. Employers need to be careful if they dismiss the request. You should get a formal decision in the form of a letter or email.
- Your Employer Says Yes.
In the case of your request being accepted, your contract should be updated immediately. You should re-sign the new terms of your contract.
- Your Employer Says No.
Employers can reject your request for a reduction in hours but only based on certain criteria. The reasons should be set out in a formal letter. The employee has the right to appeal this using an employment tribunal.
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is a way of continuing work but in a manner to suit the employee’s lifestyle. For example, working at home a few days per month or starting later and finishing earlier to fit around the school day.
When employers are considering such applications they need to do so fairly and make reasonable efforts to support their staff.
Your Right to Request Reduced Working Hours
Before requesting a reduction in working hours, you need to check you qualify. In the event you have been there for less than 26 weeks then your employer can refuse your application.
Some employers will still consider your request informally so it is worth asking if you are in any doubt.
You cannot make a flexible working request if you have already done so in the last 12 months. However, if you made one and had it refused, you can appeal this decision. You must also be a contracted employee.
Check Your Right To Make A Request
You must have been employed for 26 weeks and this should be your first request in a 12 month period. You also need to be legally classed as an employee.
This means you have a contract, are expected to work set hours and are expected to complete the work yourself.
There are other forms of employment status such as self employed and workers. To be eligible for flexible hours, you must fall into the category of employee. If you are unsure about this, check your contract or ask HR.
What You Can Request
You can request many changes that will give you the flexibility you need to continue working.
Some examples of flexible working include:
- Beginning a job share.
- Working from home part of the week.
- Reducing hours.
- Compressed hours (full time but over fewer days).
- Annualised hours (set number of hours per year to work flexibly).
- Hours are staggered, differing from other employees.
- Reduction as a result of phased retirement.
This change in your contract might be a permanent change or a temporary one. It might affect all your working hours or just a percentage of them.
There are no hard and fast rules as long as you are clear with what you are asking.
Asking For Flexible Working
There can be many reasons that an employee needs to request flexible hours.
Life can be very stressful trying to be the best version of ourselves at work and also at home. Sometimes, things need to be adjusted a little to pursue some self care. We are not robots with unlimited battery life. We may start in a job role as one person and have life change drastically.
Some reasons for asking for flexible working hours include:
- Starting a family.
- Caring for a sick family member.
- Fitting around childcare or school.
- Mental health is declining.
- An illness that affects your stamina such as long covid.
- Chronic illness such as fibromyalgia.
- A disability that impacts your life.
- Returning from maternity or paternity leave.
How to Make a Flexible Working Request
You are usually required to make a flexible working request formally. This offers you the protection of the legal processes.
This can take the form of a letter, or email, or some employers will have a form for this occasion. You need to be clear about your request, why it is coming about and any other relevant information you feel will help.
What You Need to Put in Your Request
Your request needs to be as detailed as possible but avoid all the unnecessary fluff.
Things you should include are:
- The heading ‘Making a Flexible Working Request’.
- Your name and contact information.
- Employer’s name and contact information.
- Date of writing.
- Details of what you want to change.
- When you would like this change to happen.
- How long will it be (is it temporary or permanent)?
- If you have made any other requests for this, mention them along with the dates.
- Overview of how this will affect you and the workplace.
- Mention the disability law if your reasoning is linked to this.
What Happens Next with Your Request to Reduce Working Hours?
Once your employer receives your request they will take time to consider it. This can take up to 3 months. Sometimes longer may be required but you should be properly notified of this. You will then be answered, either yes or no.
If your request is granted, you can expect to receive, and sign, an updated contract of employment. This will include your new flexible working arrangement and how this will pan out specifically in your case.
It might be declined by your employer if they feel they have the grounds to do so. Should you feel this is unjust, then you can appeal the decision via an employment tribunal.
Often, an employer will see the advantages of such an arrangement and will agree.
Reasons to Reject Flexible Working Requests
There are 7 reasons why an employer can reject your request to reduce your working hours.
- It will cost the business money.
- The additional workload can’t be redistributed to existing staff.
- It’s not possible to recruit others to do the work.
- Flexible working will affect performance and quality of output.
- The business will not be able to meet demand.
- The proposed work times are during hours where there’s not enough work.
- Business is planning changes to the workforce.
Advantages Of Flexible Working
Let’s look at this from the employer’s point of view. You might be a little worried about making the request but sometimes, it is of benefit to the employer too.
Some of these benefits are listed below.
- Increased productivity. Happy staff = positive approach to workloads.
- Fewer absences in the workplace.
- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and stress.
- Helps support staff with their life outside of the office.
- Decreases the likelihood of mental burnout.
- Creates a positive and happy atmosphere.
- Cuts down on staff turnover.
- Encourages diversity and inclusiveness.
- Lowers the office running costs.
- Brings in more job applications when there is flexibility.
The traditional 9 am to 5 pm concept of working is fast disappearing in place of a more flexible work life. As well as being craved by so many employees, it is also the employers who are edging towards this way of working.
Employers are realising the positive impact this style of work environment is having on the staff and the work being submitted. The happier staff are in the office, the better quality of the work being submitted. Also, with mental health at such an all time high, it is something employers should allow where possible.
In the event you do not qualify for requesting flexible working hours, there is nothing to prevent you from asking anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised and have it accepted anyway.
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- Citizens Advice on Flexible Working – You can also contact Citizens Advice for help if you are unsuare about any aspect of reducing your working hours with a flexible working request.
- Parental rights when unable to work due to childcare issues.