Flexible working requests

The Key
The Key
The education sector at present still lags behind others in opportunities for flexible working. Last year, only 9.7% of primary school and 6.6% of secondary school jobs were advertised as part time. One of the biggest barriers to progress in this area is timetabling but strides are being made to create more flexible working opportunities. We look at how to confidently respond to any flexible working requests you receive.

Right to request flexible working

All employees have the right to request flexible working, as long as they’ve worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

You must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. You should only refuse a request if you have a good business reason for doing so (more on this below).

Decisions on whether to approve requests will typically be made by the headteacher, with the governing board only getting involved for requests made by the head or during any appeals process.

Types of flexible working

Flexible working can involve:

  • Job sharing
  • Working from home
  • Working part-time
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexitime
  • Annualised hours
  • Staggered hours
  • Phased retirement

Application process

  1. The employee writes to you
  2. You have 3 months to consider the request and respond to the employee (you can take longer if you agree this with them)
  3. If you accept the request, you need to change the terms and conditions of the employee’s contract and write to them with a statement of the agreed changes and a start date
  4. If you deny the request, you need to write to the employee explaining the business reasons for the refusal

The 3-month response period must include time to complete any appeals, so it’s best to respond promptly. An employee can only make one application in any 12-month period. GOV.UK guidance sets out what must be included in the employee’s application.

Meeting the employee

When you receive a request, it’s a good idea to arrange a meeting to discuss it as soon as possible.

This gives you an opportunity to discuss what changes are being requested, how they might benefit the school and the employee, and how they might be accommodated.

It’s also good practice to let the employee be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.

Withdrawing a request

An employee can tell you in writing if they want to withdraw their application.

You can also treat an application as withdrawn if the employee misses 2 meetings to discuss an application or appeal without a good reason (such as sickness). You must tell the employee you’re treating the request as withdrawn.

Members of The Key for School Leaders can find out more about handling flexible working requests and access a range of staffing resources at www.thekeysupport.com/SL

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