Any questions?

Some of the most common queries about the flexible working process

This section provides responses to some of the most common queries about the flexible working process and potential scenarios. Please contact your HR Partner if you have a question which is not addressed here. 

Can a manager agree to ad-hoc informal flexible working requests?

Absolutely. For example, informal and temporary flexible working arrangements can be particularly helpful during periods of travel disruption or poor weather. These are different from a formal flexible working request because they do not change the contract of employment, although it can still be useful to put the informal arrangement in writing, for example in an email, and make a note of the expected start and end dates.

Is flexible working just for parents and carers?

Absolutely not! Any employee is welcome to discuss flexible working with their manager (or any other colleagues) - and any employee can formally request flexible working provided that they haven't made another request in the previous 12 months.

How can an employee find out more about how a flexible working arrangement may affect their salary, pension, tax, National Insurance, or holiday entitlement?

It’s the employee’s responsibility, not their line manager’s, to find out how a new working arrangement will affect their salary, pension or tax by contacting Payroll and the HR Pensions team respectively. If the employee’s request involves a change of hours, they can use the Holiday Calculator on the HR section of the intranet to calculate their new holiday entitlement.

If the request is agreed, the details of the agreed changes will be confirmed in the letter which the employee receives from HR. 

Is it possible to apply for an arrangement which isn’t covered in the Types of Flexible Working section?

The Types of Flexible Working section sets out the most common types of flexible working, but it isn’t intended to be a definitive or exhaustive list. It’s perfectly fine to request an arrangement which isn’t mentioned here, provided that the employee is specific about what they are asking for. Their manager may ask for more details if they need to clarify anything.

Employees and managers are encouraged to be creative according to the individual situation and the needs of the role/team. For example, teams that experience peaks and troughs of work throughout the year could consider offering staff the opportunity to voluntarily reduce their working hours during quiet periods.

Can an employee keep changing their work pattern?

An employee is normally limited to one formal flexible working request every twelve months. Less formal arrangements can be agreed for ad-hoc situations (for example agreeing that an employee works from home for a limited period of time due to adverse travel conditions), but these should be clearly distinguished from a formal agreement which means a long-term change to the employee’s terms and conditions.

Can a formal request be withdrawn after it’s been made?

An employee may withdraw a formal request by letting their manager know that they would like to do so. It’s best to do this as soon as possible because the usual maximum is one formal request every 12 months, and a delay might affect when the employee can make another.

If an employee has a disability, should they mention this when they make a flexible working request?

It may be helpful if the employee mentions their disability when making their request (if they have not done so before), although of course they are not obliged to do so. If the employee is requesting flexible working as a reasonable adjustment for their disability, it’s certainly recommended that they make this clear to their manager, in which case the request will usually be addressed under the Capability Health Policy or Academic Annex depending on their staff group.

Will a request be automatically approved if it is for the same type of arrangement that someone else is already working?

Approving one request doesn’t automatically mean that a manager will approve others, even if they are very similar, because approving one request changes the context for any subsequent requests. This means that, even if someone else in the team is already working a similar type of arrangement, the employee should still show that they have thought about the potential impact of their request, as well as any alternatives that might be suitable if it is difficult to accommodate the original request.

What should a manager do if they receive more than one request for flexible working at the same time?

The manager should give proper consideration to every request which they receive. At the same time, it’s important to appreciate that agreeing to one request changes the context for any later request, and the manager needs to take into account the team’s situation which will naturally be different over time.

The ACAS Code of Practice ‘Handing in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly’ provides guidance on good practice for such situations.

Does it make a difference to how a flexible working request is treated if the employee is on a fixed-term contract?

In principle, an employee on a fixed-term contract should be treated with the same consideration as if they were on a permanent contract, so any flexible working which they request should be treated in the usual way. At the same time, the manager may wish to keep in mind the reasons why the post is fixed-term. For example, if the employee was originally appointed to cover an important project which needs to be completed within a fixed deadline, this may be a significant factor if they ask for a reduction of hours.

Does making a flexible working request, or working flexibly, affect the individual’s training and development opportunities?

Anyone who requests flexible working or works flexibly is still eligible for training and development opportunities in the usual way. Naturally, this means that, for example, someone working part-time should have access to training courses on campus. It also means that managers should avoid making assumptions about the implications of a flexible working pattern for someone's long-term training and development: just because someone is working flexibly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are any less ambitious about their personal or career development.

What’s the best way of managing an employee if they are working from home?

A working from home arrangement should be a way of enabling the employee to perform their normal job from home and should not be used primarily to fulfil childcare or other caring responsibilities. This means that the employee and manager should agree objectives in the same way as if they were in the office. Given that they will be working remotely, it may be more practicable to measure the employee’s performance in terms of outputs rather than hours worked. Feedback should be provided promptly during the trial period, especially if there are any significant issues.

The School’s Health and Safety Unit has produced guidance on Working from Home which emphasises the need to carry out risk assessments to check that the home environment is suitable for working. These assessments should be completed on a regular basis, especially if the working arrangement changes or if the employee advises their manager of a significant change in their home working environment.

A flexible working arrangement has just begun and it isn’t working. What are the options?

It is important that the employee and manager speak as soon as possible if either of them feels that a particular working arrangement isn’t working properly. The conversation is an opportunity to discuss potential solutions to the issues that have been identified, or the employee and manager may agree to trial an alternative or compromise for a short period. Otherwise, they may agree to end the arrangement, in which case the employee will return to their previous working pattern.

Does being on a flexible working arrangement affect an employee’s ability to take leave?

Provided that they meet the eligibility criteria, employees working flexibly can still take any type of leave available with the School. Employees should be aware that some flexible work patterns may impact on their leave entitlements – for example, a move to part-time hours will impact on their maternity pay if they subsequently go on maternity leave.