How to ask for flexible working

 

How to ask for flexible working - Flexibility Works

All employees have a legal right to ask for flexible working. It’s not just for parents and carers. In Scotland 67% of workers already work flexibly, and a further 18% don’t but would like to. So if you would like to work flexibly you are not alone.

If you want or need flexible working, you should start by talking to your manager about your options, and find out if your company has a policy on flexible working because this might outline how to make a request.  

There are many flexible working arrangements, some of which won’t need a written request. For example, you might be able to agree verbally with your manager to amend your start and finish times, or take time off for an appointment and make up the time later.

But if you’d like to reduce your hours or make other substantial and/or permanent changes to your work pattern, you will need to send your employer a written request. This letter is known as a formal or ‘statutory’ request, and this web page explains how to make one.

 

Who can make a formal request for flexible working?

As of April 6, 2024, all employees have a legal right to request flexible working from their first day with their employer, thanks to a new law called the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023. You don’t need to be a parent or carer or have any other ‘justification’ for asking for flex.

To be clear, this is a legal right to ask for flexibility; employees don’t currently have a legal right to work flexibly. That being said, employers are under an obligation to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and must give a good reason if they refuse your request. More on that shortly.

What can I ask for?

Flexible working is about when you work, where you work and how much you work, and your request might include several types of flex, such as:

Reducing your hours
Changing your starting/finishing time
Compressing your hours (working your usual hours over fewer, longer days)
Working remotely
Working hybrid
Job sharing with someone else

How often can I make a formal request?

You can make two formal requests for flexible working in a 12-month period. But remember, some forms of flex may not need a formal request and these can be made more often.

Make sure you submit any formal request in advance of when you need the new arrangements in place. Your employer has two months to respond, so factor this into your timelines.

What’s the process for requesting flexible working?

Step one: Write to your employer asking for the flexibility you’d like.

Step two: Your employer has two months to respond. Within this time, you may be invited to a meeting with your employer to discuss your request if they have any concerns about it.

Step three: Your request will be formally approved or turned down. If your request is approved, you’ll need to sign a new contract with your employer. If your request is turned down you can appeal the decision, see below for more information.

What should I include in my written request for flex?

There’s no specific form to fill out, but your request needs to be in writing and include the information below. If you miss any of these points, your request might be refused so make sure you double-check you’ve included all these essentials.

The date
A statement confirming your letter is a statutory request
An explanation of how your working pattern will change and when/how you want to work flexibly
Whether you've made a request before and, if so, when

How can I improve my chances?

Your employer doesn’t have to accept your request to work flexibly if it is able to demonstrate one of the ‘grounds for refusal’ listed further down this page. So, making your request as compelling as possible and pointing out any benefits the change could bring for your work, your team and your wider organisation are well worth it.

 

Try to include the following points in your letter:

Explain why you're making the request. This will help your employer understand your situation and the difference extra flex could make to you and the organisation, for example you may be more likely to leave your employer if you cannot secure the flex you need. It’s also important to explain your reasons because in some cases, such as if flex will help you manage a disability or illness, it could be discriminatory for your employer to refuse your flexible working request.
Include any benefits your proposed work pattern would deliver for your role, your team and the wider organisation.
Consider asking for a trial period. You can then demonstrate how the new arrangement works well in practice.

What do I need to prepare if my employer wants to discuss my request?

Under the new law, if your employer has concerns about the impact of your request, they must consult – or meet – with you in person before making any final decision. This is to ensure they fully understand what you’re asking for and any possible impact on the organisation.

If your employer would like to discuss your request, they’ll need to arrange a meeting in advance, either in person or online. This means you should have plenty of time to prepare for the discussion. In particular, think about any benefits your request might create for you and your employer, and what the implications will be if you can’t get the flexibility you’re asking for. Your employer might not be able to approve your request in full but could offer you an alternative arrangement. If your employer does offer you an alternative, it’s a good idea to ask for a trial period to ensure the new arrangement is suitable.

If it would help to bring someone along to the meeting, you can ask your manager to have someone accompany you. Although there is no statutory right of accompaniment, it’s good practice to have someone join you, such as a trusted colleague or union representative. So long as you give your employer enough time to approve your request there shouldn’t be an issue.

Can my employer refuse my flexible working request?

Your employer has a duty to consider your request, but they can refuse it if there is a genuine negative impact on the organisation. Employers can only refuse requests for one or more of the following reasons:

The burden of additional costs
Detrimental effect on the quality of the business
Detrimental impact on the performance of the business
Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
Insufficient work to complete during the flexible hours
Inability to recruit extra staff
Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
Planned structural changes to the business

Can I appeal if my request is refused?

If your employer has refused your request, you can appeal the decision. This right to appeal isn’t expressly granted by law but it is accepted to be good practice for your employer to allow you to appeal a decision. You need to let your line manager know why you are appealing in writing. For example, is there new information you think should be considered? Or do you think your employer hasn’t handled your request reasonably? These are things you should mention in your appeal.

Your appeal should be dealt with impartially, quickly, and where possible, by a different manager. Once they’ve come to a decision, they’ll reply to you in writing outlining what has been decided and why.

Can I withdraw my application?

You can withdraw your application at any time, but you must do so in writing.

Ready to explore how flexible working can benefit your business and your people? Our team of flexible working experts are ready to help

Consultancy

Go Flex - Flexibility Works

  • Go Flex – Our programme to help you create the flex culture you want. Includes working closely with senior leaders and staff teams, and creating a plan people buy into and that you can follow.
  • Bespoke consultancy – We draw on our vast experience to deliver highly tailored change management support including creating flex for frontline roles, trialling new ways of working, leveraging flex in recruitment and measuring impact.
  • Flexible working policy review – The UK’s law on flexible working changed in April 2024, we’ll help make sure your flexible working policy is up to date.

View all consultancy services

Our Training & Workshops Training - Flexibility Works

  • Flex for line managers half-day workshop – A fast and practical way to support your managers in leading flexible teams effectively, including how to handle flex requests that feel tricky to support, and workers who don’t want to come to the office.
  • Half-day workshop for hybrid teams – Free interactive workshop to boost wellbeing and productivity in hybrid teams.
  • Bespoke training and workshops – Tailored content for your organisation’s specific needs. Always interactive. Can stand-alone or slot into a team day or event.
  • 6 module hybrid training – For managers or whole teams, includes how to communicate and collaborate in a hybrid environment, how to motivate staff and ensure wellbeing.
  • Career returners workshop – For people who’d like to return to work after a career break. We cover workers’ rights around flex, varieties of flex and how to ask for it.

View all training and workshops

Flexible Working Accreditation

Policy Review - Flexibility WorksWe’re developing Scotland’s first good practice standard for flexible working that will provide a supportive framework for employers to increase their flexible offer and showcase their flexible culture.

Learn more now

  •  

Free Resources

Free Flexible Working Resources - Flexibility Works

  • Business case for flex (coming soon) – The hard data you need to convince yourself, or someone else, that flex is good for business
  • Case studies – Stories from employers and workers on how flex works for them.
  • Flexible working for managers and individuals - Our essential guide to all things flex.
  • Working well as a hybrid team (coming soon) – Our series of short videos for teams and/or managers will help hybrid teams work effectively and promote wellbeing.
  • Hybrid working for managers – Our practical guide for managers on how to approach hybrid and manage hybrid teams successfully.
  •  

View all free resources

Testimonials

Testimonials - Flexibility WorksRead testimonials from the businesses and organisations we've supported with flexible working.

Consultancy

  • Go Flex – Our programme to help you create the flex culture you want. Includes working closely with senior leaders and staff teams, and creating a plan people buy into and that you can follow.
  • Bespoke consultancy – We draw on our vast experience to deliver highly tailored change management support including creating flex for frontline roles, trialling new ways of working, leveraging flex in recruitment and measuring impact.
  • Flexible working policy review – The UK’s law on flexible working changed in April 2024, we’ll help make sure your flexible working policy is up to date.

View all consultancy services

Our Training & Workshops

  • Flex for line managers half-day workshop – A fast and practical way to support your managers in leading flexible teams effectively, including how to handle flex requests that feel tricky to support, and workers who don’t want to come to the office.
  • Half-day workshop for hybrid teams – Free interactive workshop to boost wellbeing and productivity in hybrid teams.
  • Bespoke training and workshops – Tailored content for your organisation’s specific needs. Always interactive. Can stand-alone or slot into a team day or event.
  • 6 module hybrid training – For managers or whole teams, includes how to communicate and collaborate in a hybrid environment, how to motivate staff and ensure wellbeing.
  • Career returners workshop – For people who’d like to return to work after a career break. We cover workers’ rights around flex, varieties of flex and how to ask for it.

View all training and workshops

Flexible Working Accreditation

We’re developing Scotland’s first good practice standard for flexible working that will provide a supportive framework for employers to increase their flexible offer and showcase their flexible culture.

Learn more now

  •  

Free Resources

  • Business case for flex (coming soon) – The hard data you need to convince yourself, or someone else, that flex is good for business
  • Case studies – Stories from employers and workers on how flex works for them.
  • Flexible working for managers and individuals - Our essential guide to all things flex.
  • Working well as a hybrid team (coming soon) – Our series of short videos for teams and/or managers will help hybrid teams work effectively and promote wellbeing.
  • Hybrid working for managers – Our practical guide for managers on how to approach hybrid and manage hybrid teams successfully.
  •  

View all free resources

Testimonials

Read testimonials from the businesses and organisations we've supported with flexible working.