Applying for flexible working should be a straightforward process but there are a number of key areas to consider. The RCN publication, Working Flexibly to Support a Health Work-life Balance - A guide for representatives, provides some guidance on types of flexible working including case studies which may help you. A successful application needs to be well thought out and submitted in good time.
If you work for the NHS, you may find their guidance for both staff and managers to be helpful.
Step 1: Check your local policies
Check if you are eligible for the statutory process and check any local policies Your employer may have their own application form if not, you can download an application letter template from Gov.uk. If you are based in Northern Ireland, read more at nidirect.
Step 2: Start early and prepare carefully
You need to give your employer time to consider your request, so do not leave it too late. The process may take 12-14 weeks.
Preparation is key. Make sure you:
- speak to your colleagues about your proposed changes. If you have the support of your colleagues it is much easier to put in a strong request, as it is likely your team will need to show some flexibility to accommodate you
- if there is one, speak to your local RCN representative. Your representative may have information on what happened when other staff members have requested shift changes.
Step 3: Apply
Complete all necessary paper-work. Make sure you specify a start date for the proposed change, giving your employer reasonable time to consider the proposal and implement it. Date it and state if (and when) a previous application has been made. Remember, your proposal should persuade your manager that it is feasible, and may actually improve the running of the service. Try to:
- give solutions to any problems or issues which may arise, or have arisen from previous shift changes
- highlight the benefits to the service of your proposed change.
Above all, be diplomatic. Your approach to your manager will have a great impact on the final decision your manager makes.
Step 4: Assessment
Employers should give serious consideration to all flexible working requests and consider each request objectively. An employer may receive more than one flexible working request at the same time. Requests should be considered in the order they are received.
Your employer should consider and decide upon an application within three months of receipt (including any appeal). Extensions can be arranged as long as you both agree.
Step 5: The decision
If your employer intends to approve your request then a meeting is not needed. If you are called to a meeting to discuss your flexible working request, please contact us.
Your employer must let you know their decision to either:
- accept your request and establish a start date (and any other action) or
- agree a compromise agreed at the discussion (for example, a trial period) or
- reject the request setting out their clear business reasons, how these apply to the application, and details of any appeal process.
If approved, the variation in contractual terms is permanent unless agreed otherwise. Please be aware that if the change is permanent, you will have no automatic right to revert to the previous pattern of work. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the request, you and your employer may decide to agree that the change is temporary or subject to a trial period.
Your employer can refuse your request on the grounds that it does not make good business sense. For example, your request may impact on staffing levels or compromise patient care. If your manager gives a clear business reason for rejecting your request then any appeal is unlikely to succeed.
Employers are under no statutory obligation to grant a request for flexible working if it cannot be accommodated by the business. It is possible that not all aspects of your proposal will be accepted, and your manager will propose a slightly different arrangement as a compromise. Be prepared for this.
Valid reasons for the refusal of all or part of a request are:
- the burden of additional costs is unacceptable to the organisation
- inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- inability to recruit existing staff
- the employer considers the change will have a detrimental impact on quality
- the employer considers the change will have a detrimental impact on the business’s ability to meet customer demand
- detrimental impact on performance
- insufficient work
- planned structural changes.
Step 6: When to call us
Hopefully your application will be successful but if not, you may be called to a formal meeting to discuss your application. If so, please contact us.