Want better work-life balance?

Try Flexible Working

Over the past few weeks a number of statistics about work life-balance have been released, most prominently a survey by LinkedIn discovered that almost two-thirds (65%) of UK employee respondents would take a pay cut in exchange for a better work-life balance.

Adopting a flexible working pattern can be hugely beneficial in helping you to balance your work responsibilities with your family commitments. In our 2015 report, ‘Striking the Balance: the impact becoming a parent has on working life, employment and career’, we found that parents who could work flexibly were happier with their work-life balance, experienced enriched relationships with their children and had enhanced personal wellbeing. In addition many parents find that being able to choose a different pattern of work can lower childcare costs, for example using flexi-time to avoid childcare/school pick-up or drop-off fees.

Tips on applying for Flexible Working*

There are many flexible working options available, such as compressed hours, flexi-time, home working or term time hours. The trick is to find the pattern which best suits your circumstances. A number of employers make available flexible working arrangements, however, all employees, who have been working for their employer for more than six months are entitled to make a request to work flexibly.

You are only entitled to make one flexible working request a year, so it is important that your application makes the best case for your request. These are our top tips on how to apply for flexible working:

  1. Make sure your application follows the correct process and is in the proper format

The right to request flexible working is a statutory right therefore it is important that you follow the correct procedure. Your application must be in writing, either as a letter or email, there is an application form which you can use, but it is not obligatory. Ensure that you state that the application is made under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern and state whether you have made a previous application and when you made it.

  1. Give a full and detailed description of the flexible working pattern you are applying for

This should include the date which you want the change in your employment to take place and also how you think your new working pattern will impact on your employer, offering suggestions as to how this can be dealt with.

It is important to make a strong case, in particular think carefully about how the organisation could put in place measures to account for your changing working pattern. The employer can turn down a request on a number of grounds, so ensure that your request could not be turned down due to:

  • The burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality and/or performance;
  • insufficient workload during the proposed working hours; or
  • planned structural changes.
  1. Make your request well in advance of when you want the change to take place

The statutory process should take no longer than 14 weeks to complete, however, in some cases it can take longer. Ensure that you are prepared for this before making an application.

  1. Make sure you put the date on your initial application

This is a requirement of the statutory process, but it also helps you to keep track of how your application is progressing. The process has a number of time bound steps:

1) The employee submits the request to the employer.

2) The employer considers the request and must either confirm the employee’s new working pattern or arrange a meeting with the employee within 28 days of the request being submitted.

3) The employee and employer agree on a time to meet, the employee can bring a colleague to this meeting.

4) After the meeting, the employer must inform the employee of their decision (in writing) within 14 days.

5) The employee can appeal the decision, the employer must arrange a meeting to discuss the appeal within 14 days.

6) After the appeal meeting the employer has a further 14 days to inform the employee of their decision.

  1. Remember that if your request is successful the change to your working pattern will be permanent.

Your terms and conditions of employment will be altered and you are not entitled to revert back to your previous working pattern when you no longer need to work flexibly. If you are concerned about this check if your employer will let you have a trial period of flexible working to test if the new pattern is appropriate. In some cases the employer will agree to a set period of flexible working, after which the employee can revert back to their original working pattern.

Get in touch for more information on your working rights or you can speak to one of our Family Benefits Advisors by calling 028 9267 8200.

*This guidance only applies to parents in Northern Ireland.