Adopted by Council – 5 September 2023
What is flexible working
Every staff member has a contract of employment that sets out the working hours. A request to work flexibly is a request from the employee to change either the number of working hours, when or where they are worked. Flexible working does not mean a member of staff can work the hours they wish from day-to-day, week-to-week.
Flexible working arrangements take account of employees’ preferences, interests and non-work responsibilities whilst also meeting the needs of the council. Common examples of flexible working include part-time working; zero-hours / casual working; variable hours; flexitime; job-sharing; term-time working; compressed hours; career breaks; and sabbaticals.
Flexible working can result in benefits to councils, in that such arrangements can help make the most of today’s diverse workforce and improve the council’s ability to recruit and retain staff. It is good practice to make flexible working open to all staff.
This policy has been written to explain the process which we will use to respond to requests by staff to vary hours, pattern or place of work.
You have a statutory right to request a change to your contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided you have been continuously employed with us for at least 26 weeks at the date the application is made, regardless of whether you work full or part-time or have a temporary contract of employment. It does not apply to agency staff.
Our policy is to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the law on the right to request flexible working. To this end its aim is to inform all staff of their right to request flexible working and to ensure those rights are understood and that staff feel confident any decisions regarding their requests will be handled objectively, fairly, free from discrimination, and that staff will not be treated detrimentally because they have asked for flexible working arrangements.
Making the request
To apply for flexible working, please provide the following information in writing, and submit this to the Clerk. In the case of the Clerk, the request should be submitted to the Chair of the Council:
You can only make one statutory request in any 12-month period. You are asked to let us know if you are making the request because you consider the change could be a reasonable adjustment to support a disability. In such a case some of the requirements of this policy would not apply (i.e. the minimum period of service; one request per annum).
Responding to your request
Once we receive your written request, we will arrange a discussion with you as soon as possible, unless we agree immediately to your request. It may be that we need to ask you to supply further details before the meeting. If there is likely to be a delay in discussing your request, we will inform you. You may be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative.
Having the right to request a change to your working arrangements does not necessarily mean that your request will be accepted. Your request will be fully discussed at the meeting. We will carefully consider your request looking at the benefits of the requested changes on working conditions for you as an employee and the council and weighing these against any adverse impact of implementing the changes.
Having considered the changes, you are requesting and weighing up the advantages, possible costs and potential logistical implications of granting the request, we will write to you with the decision. The decision will be either:
Requests to work flexibly will be considered objectively, however we may not always be able to grant a request to work flexibly if it cannot be accommodated. If we turn down your request, it will be because of one, or a combination of the following reasons, and we will explain why.
If you are only looking for an informal change for a short period to your working hours or conditions, for instance to pursue a short course of study, we may consider allowing you to revert back to your previous conditions after a specified period, e.g. three months, or after the occurrence of a specific event, such as the end of a course of study.
You must be aware that if your request is approved you do not have a statutory right to make a further request for a period of 12 months, although you may still ask without the statutory right.
Timeframe for dealing with requests
We will do what we can to respond to your request as soon as possible although the law requires the consideration process to be complete within three months of first receiving a request, including any appeal. If the request cannot be dealt with within three months, we may ask to extend the consideration process, provided you agree to the extension.
Handling requests in a fair way
We may receive more than one request to work flexibly closely together from different employees and it may or may not be possible to accept all requests. If we agree to a request for flexible working arrangements this does not meant that we can also agree to a similar change for another employee. Each case will be considered on its merits looking at the business case in the order they have been received. We may need to take others’ contractual terms into account and we may ask you if there is any room for adjustment or compromise before coming to a decision.
Appealing the decision
If we decline your request and you wish to appeal, you must do so, in writing, within 5 working days of receiving the letter informing you of the outcome. We will then write to you to arrange a meeting to discuss your appeal. This meeting will be held as soon as reasonably possible and will normally be with a sub-committee of councillors. You may wish to be accompanied at that meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative.
There may be circumstances when the council is unable to meet within the required timeframes, in which case a meeting will be held as soon as is practically possible.
The effect on your contract of employment
Any change in your hours or pattern of work will normally be a permanent change to your contractual terms and conditions. This means that you will not automatically be able to revert back to the previous working pattern (unless otherwise agreed). So, for example, if your new flexible working pattern involves working reduced hours, you will not automatically be able to revert to working full time hours.
Changes to your working pattern may affect other terms and conditions of employment. For example, reducing your hours of work will mean that your pay and leave will be pro-rated accordingly. Your pension may also be affected.
Any changes to your terms and conditions as a result of a change to your working pattern will be confirmed in your decision letter, however if you have further queries about how a proposed change to your pattern of work might affect your terms and conditions please speak to the Clerk or Chair of the Council in the first instance.
When managing a flexible working request, we will process personal data collected in accordance with the data protection policy. Data collected from the point at which we receive a flexible working request is held securely and accessed by, and disclosed to, individuals only for the purposes of managing their request for flexible working. Inappropriate access or disclosure of employee data constitutes a data breach and should be reported in accordance with the data protection policy immediately. It may also constitute a disciplinary offence, which will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.
This is a non-contractual procedure which will be reviewed from time to time.
The wording of this policy is based on an employee’s statutory right to make a request to change their working arrangements. Adopting and applying this policy as it stands will support the council to comply with this right.
The statutory right is limited to employees with 26 weeks’ service. Councils can, if they wish, extend the right to all staff.
The statutory right is limited to one request per annum. Councils can, if they wish, consider requests made more frequently.
Employers are not compelled to agree to flexible working requests. The policy sets out some reasons that may mean the request cannot be accepted. This list is based on the legislation. Employers must carefully consider the request, but if the proposal is likely to lead to difficulties with the operation of the council, you should discuss the problems, see if they can be reasonably mitigated, but if not, you can decline the request.
With the exception of a request to support an employee with a disability (see below), the reason for the request should not affect whether the council accepts or declines a request.
Important note: If a request has been made to support the health and wellbeing of a staff member, then this may be considered to be a ‘reasonable adjustment’. Employers have a legal duty to consider making changes to work arrangements to prevent disadvantage to a disabled worker. If an employer does not consider making such ‘reasonable adjustments’, or doesn’t implement such adjustments, this may lead to unlawful discrimination.
A disability is a physical or mental impairment which has a substantially adverse and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ may be to allow an employee with long-term anxiety to arrive at work 30 minutes late to avoid rush hour.
Please refer to ACAS (www.acas.org.uk/disability) for further information.
You may receive a flexible working request from one team member, agree to the request and confirm the changes to their contract. You may then receive a similar request from another team member doing the same job. Your agreement to the first request does not mean that you have to agree to the second request. Each request will need to be considered against the contractual arrangements in place.
If you are not sure whether a proposed working pattern will work, you can agree to a trial period to test it out. If you do so, it will be important to put this in writing and be clear about the duration of the trial and that the working pattern will automatically revert to the previous arrangements unless the council agrees to the contrary.
If a request is agreed on a temporary or permanent basis, it will be important to confirm the outcome in writing and ensure this is placed on the HR file. If there is a change to the terms set out in the employment contract (whether temporarily or permanently), it will be important to issue a letter to confirm the changes that have been agreed.