Having the right Work-Life balance is increasingly important these days with most of us working longer and longer hours to make ends meet. It’s all very well knowing the answer to the question “what is flexible working?” but how does it benefit you as an individual and how do you go about getting it?

The benefits are fairly self-explanatory, it gives you a more flexible work time allowing you more time for you family and loved ones while still earning a regular income.

Any employee can ask their employer for flexible working, but unless you fit the below criteria you don’t have the statutory right for your request to be heard.

The criteria you must match are that:

  • You are an employee. (The law does not cover anyone who is an agency worker or in the armed forces).
  • You have to have worked for their employer for a minimum of 26 continuous weeks before they can apply.
  • You cannot apply to change their working patterns more then once every 12 months.

So long as you meet these criteria, you have the statutory right to ask as long as you:

  • Either has, or is expecting to have parental responsibility for a child that is 16 or under. (Or in the case of disabled children, under 18 and claiming Disability Living Allowance).
  • Are applying to care for a child and are a parent/guardian/foster parent or a spouse/partner/civil partner of someone who is.
  • You are providing care, or expecting to provide care for an adult who is a spouse/partner/civil partner or relative – or even an adult who is not related to you but living at the same address as you.

Although the law states that if you match the above criteria it does not say that your employer HAS to grant you flexible working, only that they hear your case and can only reject your application if there is a good business grounds to do so.

To make your application you should set out the working pattern that you wish to be working, and how it can be accommodated by your employer as well as any benefits to the company that you can think of.

This needs to:

  • Be done “in writing” so either by letter, email or fax and be dated.
  • State that you are making the request under your statutory rights.
  • Confirm the reason you are requesting the time under your statutory rights (ie care of a child or adult who meets the above criteria).
  • Specify the type of flexible work you are asking for (ie part time, flexi time, condensed hours, etc).
  • Explain any changed that you feel it may have on your employers business, and how the employer could deal with these effects.
  • Specify the date you wish the new working pattern to start.
  • State any other applications for flexible working you have made before and the dates you applied for them.

If you employer suspects you are trying to abuse your rights, they can ask for evidence, however you are not legally obliged to provide any proof of the relationship to the child or adult you are going to be caring for, or that they need any particular level of care, or even why it is you that has to provide the care rather then someone else.

If however, your employer feels that accepting your request to change your work patterns will damage their business then they have the right to refuse your application. If you believe that your employer hasn’t considered your application properly, you have the right to appeal the decision.

You must make your appeal in writing within 14 days of receiving the written notice from your employer refusing your application. You can appeal if you want to challenge the reasons that your employer has given to refuse your application, bring something to their attention regarding your application that they may not have been aware of (e.g. a colleague who is now willing to cover any hours you don’t want to work).

Your employer should then arrange the meeting within 14 days of them receiving your appeal and ideally a different manager should hear your appeal.

If you still don’t get a solution that seems fair to you, you can try contacting Acas to see if they can provide a third-party mediator to help find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.