Flexible working – employee guide

If you are eligible you can request a change to the hours you work, a change to the times when you are required to work, and/or to work from home. This guidance tells you about how to make a formal application and some of the issues which it would be helpful for you to consider.

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To be eligible to make a request for flexible working under the University’s flexible working procedure you must be able to make the following declarations:

  • You are an employee (not a casual or agency worker)
  • You have at least 26 weeks continuous service with the University
  • You have not made another request for flexible working during the last 12 months

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Fill in an application form putting forward your request. You will find the application form on the right hand side of this page

When you return your form to your administrator, you will receive a confirmation of receipt letter.

A meeting will be called within 28 days of your submitting your form to the department to consider your request. At this meeting you will have the right to be represented by a trade union representative (if you are a member) or a friend or colleague from within the University. If your representative is unable to attend the meeting, you will have the right to rearrange the meeting for a date within seven days of the originally proposed time, ensuring that the new time is convenient to all parties.

Following the meeting you will be informed of the decision of your department by letter, within 14 days.

  • If your request is accepted, your department will send you a description of the new working pattern, together with the date from which it is to take effect.
  • If your application has been rejected, your department will write to you to state the operational reason(s) for refusing the application; provide a sufficient explanation as to why the operational ground(s) for refusal apply in the circumstances; and provide you with details of your right to appeal.

You will have 14 days to appeal after receiving the decision from your department. Your department will then have 14 days to set up an appeal, which will be heard by your head of department (or his or her nominee). The department will let you know the result of the meeting within 14 days.

If you are still not satisfied with the result, you may invoke your department's grievance procedure.

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A new working pattern will normally result in a permanent change to your contract of employment, unless otherwise agreed. So think carefully about your request, as you will have no right to revert to your former hours of work once the new pattern has been put in place.

  • Think about the date when you would like your new working pattern to begin. Be aware that the decision-making process can take at least 3 months to complete.
  • If you are going on maternity leave, you should think carefully about when to make your request. You are encouraged to mention to your department before you take maternity leave if you wish to apply to work flexibly on your return. Bear in mind that you may need to attend meetings with your department so that your request can be properly considered. If you want the changes to start on your return from maternity leave you should make your application in good time.
  • The more notice you are able to give your department, the more likely it will be able to implement any change when it suits you. So, once you have completed your application form, you should submit it to your departmental administrator as soon as possible.
  • Remember that if you request a flexible working pattern that will result in you working fewer hours, your pay, pension contributions and benefits will also be reduced on a pro rata basis. You may wish to take advice from the pensions office about the effect of changes on your pension. If you have a certificate of sponsorship you should ask your administrator to liaise with the Staff Immigration Team.
  • Try to provide as much detail as possible about the pattern you would like to work.
  • Take time to consider how your colleagues will manage if your working pattern is changed. If you have any colleagues or friends who are already working flexibly, you could ask them about their experiences.
  • Think about what effect changing your working pattern will have on your job. You should aim to show in your application that your plans will not harm your department's work and may in fact enhance it. It may mean, for example, that you are available to provide extra cover at peak hours, thereby improving service.
  • Think about how any potential problems your plans may present to your department could be overcome and ensure that you include these in your application. For example, it may mean that you will not be in work when your department opens each morning. What effect will this have on the department, and how could it be managed?

When it is completed, your application should be submitted to your departmental administrator.

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The meeting provides a good way for both you and your department to understand each other's position and to try to identify a solution which suits you both. You will be able to discuss the proposed work pattern in depth and consider how it might be accommodated. You should be prepared to be flexible because if the original working pattern cannot be accommodated, the meeting will also provide an opportunity to see if an alternative working arrangement may be appropriate. Trying a new working pattern for an agreed trial period in order to see how it would suit you and your department might also be an option.

To ensure you get the most from the meeting you should:

  • be prepared to expand on any points in your application
  • prepare to be flexible. Your department may ask if there are any other working patterns you would be willing to consider or if you would consider another start date or a trial period
  • make sure, if you are taking a trade union representative or a friend or colleague along, that they are fully briefed on your request before the meeting, provide them with a copy of your application and this guidance, and inform your department that you are bringing your representative. This will save time during the meeting
  • make sure you and any representative have read this guidance before the meeting so that you are familiar with the University's procedures on requesting flexible working

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An application can be refused only where there is a clear operational reason.

The operational reason(s) for refusing an application must be at least one of the following:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • an inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes

These are the statutory reasons why your department could refuse your request for a change in your working pattern or location. If your application is refused, your department will write to you to explain exactly why the requested working pattern cannot be accepted, and will explain this in the context of your case.

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