Flexible working

Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting.

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Q: I am a deputy headteacher and I have just had my first child. When I return from maternity leave I would like to reduce the number of days on which I work. Is this possible and what do I need to do to set this in motion?

A: All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) website makes it very clear what an employee must do if s/ he wishes to request for flexible working to be considered:

To make a request for flexible working employees must:
  1. make their request in writing, state the date the request is made, the change to working conditions they are seeking, and the date they would like the change to take effect
  2. state whether they have made a previous application for flexible work and the date of that application
  3. state what change to working conditions they are seeking and how they think this may affect the business eg cost saving to the business
  4. state if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010, for example, as a reasonable adjustment for disabled employees”
Employers must consider requests in a reasonable manner, responding within three months, and can only refuse them if there is a business reason for doing so. Examples of reasons that may cause a request to be turned down within a school context, are an inability to reorganise work among existing staff, a detrimental impact on quality or a detrimental impact on performance.
Guidance from Acas can be found in the two following publications and on the Acas website:
  1. The Right to Request Flexible Working: An Acas guide
  2. Acas: Flexible working and work–life balance

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