Considering a flexible working request
Please read the flexible working policy when considering flexible working requests.
This guidance is to help you manage requests from your employees to work flexibly. It is important that you read and follow this guidance carefully to ensure requests are dealt with consistently, fairly and within the law.
We give all of our employees the right to request flexible working although employees over 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working and you must deal with all requests in the same way as outlined here.
Managers have the duty to consider these requests in a fair and timely way. You may refuse the request if you have a good business reason for doing so. There is no requirement to agree every request that is submitted and the feasibility and impact of the request should be considered very carefully.
If you are considering introducing flexible working to your team, please refer to the guidance provided by following the link.
You can download this guidance as a document - Managers guide to considering a flexible working request.
Most employees requesting flexibility are advised to discuss their request initially with their team and line manager/academic lead to determine its feasibility before submitting a formal request. Some forms of flexibility do not require a formal request, as outlined below.
Flexible working request form – existing employees wishing to work compressed hours, annualised hours, reduced hours, job share, regularly from home, remotely or any combination of these must complete a flexible working request form. You should follow the guidance on this page for such applications.
Annual teaching restrictions form – teaching staff may request restrictions on their timetabled hours and these should be submitted annual through the annual teaching restrictions form. You should follow the process and guidance outlined on the teaching restrictions page.
Informal conversation – existing employees wishing to work flexitime or occasionally from home may make a request informally and you can agree this informally. If agreed, you should be clear about your expectations and follow the guidance provided on the linked pages. Prospective employees may also approach you about any type of flexible working during the recruitment process. You should follow the guidance for recruiting managers. Many departments or teams will already have agreed that their staff can work flexitime and no further agreement is needed.
Occupational Health – the Occupational Health team may recommend flexible working for an employee returning to work after a long term absence. The feasibility of this request may be discussed with Occupational Health and a flexible working request form does not need to be completed but expectations should be made clear.
Download the Considering flexible working request - the process which includes timescales that must be followed.
Employees are advised to think through the details of their request and discuss it with their team and manager before applying formally. This is to help highlight any areas of concern and ensure that the University’s business is not impacted negatively.
You should have an open and honest discussion to explore the feasibility. It is not appropriate to make and refuse the request at this stage. You can highlight any areas that you think may be difficult and the employee should consider these if they decide to progress with their request.
Flexitime and occasional homeworking requests can be agreed through informal conversation and no formal flexible working request needs to be made but you should refer to the homeworking and flexitime guidance.
Why: The purpose of the meeting is to provide both parties with the opportunity to discuss the requested working arrangements in depth and consider how feasible they are. This could include discussions around alternative arrangements that might meet the needs of both parties.
Who: The meeting should be arranged by the line manager. Attendees should include: the employee making the request, the line manager, the relevant College/Service nominee and where possible, the HR Business Partner or HR Advisor. The employee can be accompanied to the meeting by a work colleague or a union representative.
When: The meeting should be held within 28 days of the date of the formal request at a time and date should be convenient for all parties. If you are unable to arrange a meeting in this time, you should let the employee know that there will be a delay. The entire process of considering the request (including any appeal) must be finished within 3 months of the formal request.
Where: The meeting may be face to face or if all parties are happy, it can take place over the telephone or another way such as Lync or Skype.
You have a duty to consider the request fairly but are not under any statutory obligation to grant the request if it cannot be accommodated by the business due to one or more of the eight business reasons listed below.
When looking at a request, you should consider the following things:
Contractual, visa and grant implications: you should discuss the contractual and visa implications of the requested arrangements with your HR Business Partner. The International Employment Officer MUST always be contacted for requests from employees working on a visa. Grant implications can usually be discussed with the relevant Research Accounting team. Depending on the nature of the request, the following terms and conditions may change if agreed and you should discuss these with the employee:
- Salary (e.g. if reducing total hours)
- Grade of the post (e.g. if changes to role’s location or working hours mean that particular duties cannot be carried out which could then change the grade of the role)
- Annual leave and other benefits (e.g. annual leave may be pro-rata’d)
- Visa – an international employee may have a visa which is time limited or have other terms that may be affected by a change in working arrangements. The flexible working arrangement might not be covered by their current visa and so the visa must always be checked.
- Externally funded post – the terms and conditions of the funding agreement should be checked. For example, if the request relates to reducing hours but the employee is working on a time-limited research project, would the reduction necessitate an extension to the project end date and is this permitted by the terms and conditions of the funding?
Practical implications for the role: consider the effect of the request if approved on the role:
- is the workload achievable within the new arrangement?
- will the nature of work to be done change?
- can the work be done in the pattern of working requested?
- impact of restructuring workload on rest of duties
- flexibility if work commitments change (short-term), sometimes at short notice, or for meetings
- health and safety considerations for homeworking– please read the working from home safely guidance.
Practical implications for managing the post:
- how performance and output will be monitored
- contact and response agreement on home-working days
- how sickness will be managed
Practical implications for the team: consider the impact of the requested arrangement on other members of the team:
- impact of restructuring workload for work colleagues and teams
- current work patterns of other team members
Financial implications: consider if there are any intolerable costs associated with the requested arrangements and whether there are ways that these costs can be minimised. For example:
- purchase of new or additional IT equipment
- cost of management overhead
- cost of recruitment (for example recruiting a job share partner)
- cost of any additional space or furniture requirements
Reasons for refusal: a request can only be refused for one (or more) of the following business reasons:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- inability to re-organise work among existing employees;
- inability to recruit additional employees;
- detrimental impact on quality;
- detrimental impact on performance;
- insufficiency of work during the periods you propose to work;
- planned structural changes
You should also make sure that the request falls within the normal parameters for the type of flexible working as outlined in the toolkit.
There is further guidance on considering a request in the form of example requests and considerations as well as Business grounds for refusing a flexible working request - examples.
The decision may be made at the meeting or you may require additional information or need time to discuss the proposed working arrangement with other employees. A decision should be made within 14 days of the meeting.
Once a decision has been reached you should discuss and agree a review date.
An employee has 14 days from the date of receiving your notification of rejection to appeal, in writing to the Director of Human Resources. As soon as possible and recommended within 14 days of receipt of that letter a meeting will be arranged two appropriate senior managers who have not previously been involved in discussions about your request. The outcome of the appeal is final and must be confirmed as soon as possible and within 3 months of the initial request.
It is important to confirm any arrangements and expectations in writing so that all parties are clear of the agreement. This is particularly important as changes agreed through a request for flexible working may mean a change to the employee's terms and conditions of employment.
The letter will be sent from HR so you must inform your HRBP of the final decision. This is important so that the employee’s records on Trent can be updated and any necessary adjustments made to conditions such as holiday or pay.
Any written confirmation MUST include details of arrangements for review. The University will normally have the right to end the flexible working arrangement if personal or business circumstances change.
As the business environment and individual circumstances are continually changing, working arrangements should be reviewed regularly and any issues that arise are best dealt with as soon as possible.
Working arrangements MUST be reviewed after an initial trial period to ensure they are meeting the needs of the individual and the business. It is recommended that there are reviews after 6 and 12 months but you may consider different review dates if appropriate to the circumstances.
Review dates must be agreed in advance with the employee.
The process must be completed (including the appeal) within 3 months from the date that the application is received.
If the process looks like it might take longer than 3 months you MUST get written approval from the employee to extend the timeframe.