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The benefits of flexible working and how it could help you

If you need to combine work with your caring responsibilities, you could request a flexible working arrangement to help.

More than ever, both employers and employees are recognising the benefits of flexible working. 

After taking the initiative to change their working hours, many carers have reaped the benefits, as have their employers (who have avoided losing valuable talent and experience).  

They describe having more energy, focus, peace of mind and greater wellbeing, the benefits of which are indeed also felt by those they are caring for. 

 

What flexible working options are there?

Before approaching your employer, you should consider what type of arrangement would work best for you. It could be a small change or something more significant. There are examples below: 

 

 

  • Flexi-time – employees may be required to work within set times but outside of these 'core hours' have some flexibility in how they work their hours. 
  • Working from home or remote working – where employees spend part or all of their working week away from the workplace. Home-working is just one option. 
  • Hybrid working – where employees split their time between the workplace and remote working.
  • Job sharing – usually two employees share the work normally done by one person. 
  • Part-time working – employees might work shorter days or fewer days in a week. 
  • Term-time working – employees don’t work during school holidays and either take paid or unpaid leave or their salary is calculated pro-rata over the whole year. 
  • Staggered hours – employees have various starting and finishing times meaning that goods and services are available outside traditional working hours. 
  • Compressed hours – employees work their total hours over fewer working days eg, a 10-day fortnight is compressed into a nine-day fortnight.  
  • Mealtime flex – employees take their lunch break when it suits them during the work day. Some employees may choose to take a shorter break instead and leave work earlier. 
  • Annualised hours – employees work a specified number of hours over the year but have some flexibility about when they work. These employees usually have a set number of ‘core’ hours they work each week and work the remainder of their hours flexibly. 


The Carer’s Leave Act will become law from 6 April 2024.

This will give unpaid carers, balancing unpaid care with paid employment, the legal right to five days of unpaid carer’s leave. 

Carers UK has led the campaign for the introduction of carer’s leave for decades and we’re delighted to see it become an Act and set to become law.

Find out more in our campaigns section.

Do I have the right to request flexible working? 

There are two types of request that you can make: statutory requests or non-statutory requests. This information mainly covers statutory requests but, in some cases, a non-statutory request might be more appropriate. You can contact Acas for more guidance.

Making a statutory request

Currently, you have the legal right to request flexible working if you have been an employee with 26 weeks (six months) of continuous employment at the time you make an application.Yet from 6 April 2024, this will change. See 'The Flexible Working Act' below.



The Flexible Working Act

However, a law has been passed that gives you the right to ask your employer for flexible working from day one of your employment if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. 

This is set to come into force from 6 April 2024.


Some employers provide better rights to flexible working than the basic rights outlined in this guidance so it’s worth checking your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment, in case they suggest a better entitlement.
 

Note:For a summary of the statutory rights in work which may be of interest to you as a carer, download our factsheet: Your rights in work. 

 

Applying for flexible working


You can make a request at any time, as long as you have been employed continuously for 26 weeks. It is best to make the request as soon as possible – your employer has up to three months to make a decision.
 

The law gives you the right to make one application a year for flexible working, so it is important that you put forward the best case you can. However, your employer may be understanding if you find your circumstances change and you need to make a further application, but they are not legally required to. 

It is worth thinking about whether a trial period might help. This gives both you and your employer an opportunity – without commitment and a permanent change to your contract – to test out the suggested working pattern to see what impact it has on both you and the organisation. 

Important note - the above rules are set to change!

A new law has been passed that gives you the right to ask your employer for flexible working from day one of your employment if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. 

  • This could cover changes to your working hours, your times of work, or your place of work. 
  • You will also be able to ask your employer for changes twice a year rather than once a year which is helpful if your caring circumstances change, for example.
  • You will no longer have to make a case about the impact this will have on your employer.
  • Your employer will have to consult you if they don’t think they can make the changes you need. 

When do these changes come into effect?

These changes will come into effect from 6 April 2024.


It is a good idea to discuss your thoughts first with your manager. Then the request for flexible working must be made in writing and include:
 

  • the date of the request
  • an outline of the working pattern you would like
  • the date on which you would like the proposed change to start
  • a statement that it is a flexible working request
  • whether you have made any previous requests, and if so the date of those requests. 

The Department for Business and Trade has created a template (here) for flexible working requests that you may find useful to fill in and print. Writing your flexible working request in your own words is also fine but of course, remember to go through the above checklist.  

Although you are not required to, giving reasons why you are making the request, may strengthen your application. Nor do you have to provide proof of your circumstances, ie that you are a carer, but again the more details you can give, the better your chances of success may be. 

The  Acas Code of Practice  recommends that an employee should be allowed to be accompanied to meetings to discuss flexible working requests.
 


Here are four key tips you could consider:
 

Tip oneMake notes about what changes you would like – try to come up with constructive solutions for any obstacles these could create for you/ your employer. 

Tip twoGet advice beforehand from a Trade Union if you have one, fellow carers (such as via our forum) or fellow colleagues you trust. 

Tip three: Find out about your employer’s policies around flexible working. See if these are freely available, for example on the staff intranet or request them from your HR department. 

Tip four: Discuss your request with your manager or someone from your HR Team. 

Follow the guidance here on what else you would need to include as you complete your request form.

You can also find a template form in this section of the Gov.uk website to complete. 


There are some big differences between statutory and non-statutory flexible working requests and we’ve summarised these in a table below.
  

Statutory request 

Non-statutory request 

Up to 6 April 2024, you need to have worked for 26 continuous weeks. From 6 April 2024, you can make a request from day one of employment.

You can make a request at any time. 

Up to 6 April 2024, you can only make one request in a 12-month period. From 6 April 2024, you will be able to make two requests per year.

You can make as many requests as you wish in a 12-month period, unless your employer has a limit. 

Your employer legally has to make a decision within three months, unless you agree to an extension. From 6 April 2024, this will change to two months.

There is no timeframe within which your employer has to make a decision. 

This is useful if you wish to make a permanent change to your working pattern. 

This is useful if you want to make a temporary change to your working pattern, particularly before you make a permanent change. 

Refusal of a flexible working request


Your employer can treat your request as withdrawn if you fail to attend two consecutive meetings, without good reason, to discuss the request for flexible working.
 

Your employer must inform you of their decision to withdraw your application. It’s therefore important that you inform your employer as soon as possible if and why you are not able to attend the meeting.

From the 6 April 2024, employers will further be required to hold a consultation with you in advance of making any decision to refuse your request partially or completely. 


Unless your employer decides to agree to your written request in full, they must consult you before they make a decision. They should do this by inviting you to a consultation meeting to discuss your request. This can help make sure that all relevant information is understood before a decision is made.  

The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay and your employer should notify you of the time and place in advance. You and your employer should both have reasonable time to prepare for the discussion, while taking into account the statutory two-month period for deciding requests. 

The Acas Code of Practice recommends that an employee should be allowed to be accompanied to meetings to discuss flexible working requests. 


Your employer has a duty to deal with your request as soon as possible, within a reasonable time and must give careful consideration to your request. Your employer can only refuse your request if they have good business reasons and this should be explained in writing, including relevant and accurate facts.
 

Your employer must consider and make a decision on your request within two months of receiving it from you, unless you agree to an extension.  

The business reasons for refusing a request are: 

  • burden of additional costs 
  • inability to reorganise work among existing staff 
  • inability to recruit additional staff 
  • detrimental impact on quality or performance 
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand 
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work 
  • planned structural changes. 

Anticipating some of these potential concerns in advance when you are putting across your request could be beneficial, especially if you can explain how they wouldn’t be an issue if questions arise. 

If you have strong objections to their decision, you can find out more about resolving the issue on the GOV.UK website.

Carer Jane smiling and looking at phone in her garden

Flexible working videos

One carer, Ally, describes working flexibly as a ‘win-win situation’ for both the employer and for the employee. Carers Jane, Ally and Niki all describe their experiences in our videos series. 

Carer Niki using laptop and smiling

Flexible working guide

Our guide on flexible working, supported by Barclays LifeSkills.

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