Businesses can benefit from a flexible approach and flexible work arrangements, including improved employee engagement, productivity, and work quality. Delivering small changes can make employees feel supported and improve staff retention, sickness absence, and morale.


5.1. Introduction

Flexible working arrangements can help employees maintain their work and life balance and can help employers improve the productivity and efficiency of their business.

Flexible working can be any working pattern other than the normal working pattern. Examples can involve changes to the hours an employee works, the times they are required to work, or their place of work.

Flexible working options are not set in stone and employers and employees should think together creatively about how this could work for both parties. As long as employees are receiving their minimum entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible.

Employers and line managers have a crucial role to play in ensuring that members of their workforce are well supported and managed if they need to take time out in order to manage their caring responsibilities. We aim to give you practical advice on how to adapt policies into practice according to the specific needs of your staff and the business.

In this topic, we discuss the options for working co-operatively and the importance of open and honest communication.

If you are a working carer we have included in this section a template that you can use if you want to make a flexible working request. You will also find information on what you can do if your employer refuses your request.

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5.2. Flexible Working Options

Flexible working can be any type of working pattern which is different from the existing one and employer and employee should think together creatively about how the change could work for both parties.

Part-time Work: Part-time work is when employees are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours. It is the most common type of flexible working.

Changing Working Hours: It can be any changes in the employee’s working pattern, for example changing the weekend hours to weekday hours or changing working hours to fit in with, for example, school hours, college hours, or care arrangements.

Compressed Hours: Compressed hours mean working the employee’s usual hours in fewer days of work. The fewer, but longer working blocks during the week release some more days for the employee.

Staggered Hours: This allows the employee to start and finish at different times from other workers.

Annualised Hours: This means that working time is organised around the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than over a week. Annualised hours work best when there is a rise and fall in workload during the year.

Flexi-time: Allows employees to choose, within certain set limits, when to begin and end work within agreed core times.

Home Working or Teleworking: Allows employees to regularly work from home and maintains contacts with employers, teams, and clients from home. Jobs also can be relocated to places where it is more attractive, more convenient, or reduce costs.

Job-sharing: It is a form of part-time working where two (or occasionally more) people share the responsibility for a job between them.

Self-rostering: This is most often found in hospitals and care services. Employees put forward the times they would like to work. Once staff levels and skills are worked out, the shift pattern is drawn up matching the employees’ preferences as closely as possible.

Shift Working: The employee works set hours but within a 24 hour period replacing another employee who is doing the same job.

Time Off in Lieu: Some employers give their employees time off instead of paying for overtime. This is known as ‘time off in lieu. The terms (e.g. when it can be taken) are agreed upon between employee and employer.

Term-time Work: The employee doesn’t work during the school holidays, but remains on a permanent contract. The planned non-working periods are the combination of annual leave and unpaid leave.

Temporary Working and Fixed-term Contracts: A temporary worker is someone employed for a limited period and whose job is usually expected by both sides to last for only a short time. Temporary workers may be employed directly by the employer or by private agencies. Agencies will recruit, select and sometimes train temporary workers and hire them out to employers.

Career Breaks: Career breaks or sabbaticals are extended periods of leave. Normally unpaid and the contract remains valid.

Commissioned Outcomes: This means no fixed hours, but only an output target that an individual is working towards.

Phased Retirement: Phased retirement gives more flexibility to employees on how and when they want to retire. This means for example that they can reduce their hours and work part-time or carry on working.

Allocated Days for Hospital Appointments: A number of days are allocated to all staff e.g. 5 days within a financial year for hospital appointments for dependants. Each staff decides how they want to use it.

Variable Hours: The employee has no fixed working hours and patterns.

REFERENCES: ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) available at:; GOV.UK available at:; Citizen Advice available at:

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5.3. Making a Flexible Working Request

All employees in the UK have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.

If you have worked continuously for the same employer for 26 weeks you are legally entitled to make a request to change your working pattern once a year.

This said it is always worth checking your relevant policies or having further discussions with your line manager as they may be sympathetic in the case that your situation changes and you need to make another request.

When you make a request you have to make it in writing, setting out;

  • The date of application;
  • A statement that this is a statutory request;
  • Details of how you want to work flexibly and when you would like your proposed alternative working pattern to start;
  • An explanation of how you think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, e.g. if you are not at work on certain days;
  • A statement saying if and when you have made a previous application.

You can find a template on this page that may assist you in making your request or alternatively, you can use the standard form on the GOV.UK website:

Once your employer has received your written request they should arrange a meeting with you to discuss it, giving you adequate notice so that you can arrange to take someone with you if you so wish. Your employer should consider your request and have reached a decision on it within three months. They can take longer but only if you agree.

Legally your employer must let you take another work colleague or union representative into the meeting, however, they may allow someone else to accompany you, e.g. a support worker, but this is at their discretion.

If the request is granted this will be a permanent change to your terms and conditions unless otherwise agreed.

Even if you do not qualify to request to work flexibly under the statutory procedure, for example, you have been in employment less than 26 weeks, you can still make the request but this will have to be explored with your employer. Although according to the law they do not have to accept your request they may still consider it. Many employers offer flexible working options to their staff as best practice.

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5.4. Employers can Reject a Flexible Working Request

For any of the following reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • The business won’t be able to meet customer demand
  • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • The requested flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • There is a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning structural changes to the workforce

Employers are not bound to accept the request but must consider them and must tell you the reason why the request was rejected. If your employer turns down your request for flexible working, you can appeal in writing within 14 days.

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ACAS Guide: The Right to Request Flexible Working Flexible Working Options