From April 2024, important changes have been introduced regarding flexible working and how requests for flexible working requests are handled.

Under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 and the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 the key changes are as follows:

  • the right to request flexible working is a 'day one' right (previously 26 weeks);

  • employees can now make two (not one) flexible working requests in any 12 month period;

  • requests have to be dealt with by employers within two (not three) months of receipt of a request if no extension is agreed;

  • employers are not able to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee;

  • employees will no longer, in their application, have to explain what effect the employee thinks agreeing to the request would have and how any such effect might be dealt with.

The Union’s advice and guidance as detailed below and on subsequent pages has been updated accordingly, including revised Flexible Working Checklists for each nation which can be located on the right/below.

Flexible working has a vital role to play in helping schools and colleges recruit, retain and motivate teachers.

There is a significant body of evidence that shows the benefits of flexible working, such as increased productivity, a more motivated workforce, greater employee engagement and greater diversity among the workforce.

Indeed, the Department for Education (DfE) in England notes that implementing flexible working allows schools to retain experienced staff, promote wellbeing and improve work/life balance.

In addition, offering flexible working can help teachers adjust to different stages of their life, such as those with caring responsibilities and those looking to plan a phased retirement. [1]

The NASUWT is aware that there are a significant number of members who would like to work more flexibly and achieve a better work/life balance.

As such, the Union has produced this advice and guidance to ensure that members who are considering making a flexible working request are aware of their rights and entitlements and supported during this time.

Types of flexible working

Flexible working can be seen as any arrangement that allows you to vary the amount, timing or location of your work.

If you are considering making a request for flexible working, you should carefully consider which type of flexible working is best suited to you from the following:

  • Part-time working: working less than full-time hours over a set number of days - usually less than the normal working week.

  • Job-sharing: a form of part-time working where two (or occasionally more) people share the responsibility for a job between them.

  • Flexitime: allows you to choose, within certain set limits, when to begin and end work.

  • Compressed hours: working full-time hours but over fewer days.

  • Annualised hours: working a certain number of hours over the year with some flexibility about when you work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which you regularly work each week, with the additional hours being worked flexibly or when there is extra.

  • Staggered hours: you have a different start, finish and break time from other workers.

  • Working from home on a regular basis: it might be possible to do some or all of your work from home or anywhere else other than your normal place of work.

  • Phased retirement: the default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means that they can reduce their hours and work part time.

Whilst acknowledging that some forms of flexible working may be more suitable for certain roles in schools, the NASUWT maintains that schools/colleges should not try to limit the options available, as this restricts the ability to agree requests that are made.

Making a statutory request for flexible working

From 6 April 2024, under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 and the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, you will have the right to make two requests for flexible working in any 12-month period, irrespective of how long you have worked for your school or college.

Essentially, the right to request flexible working will become a day one right.

Any request for flexible working should be in writing and include the following details:

  • the date of the application;

  • that you are making a statutory request for flexible working;

  • the change to your current working arrangements that you are seeking, e.g. moving from five days a week to four days a week and the date when you would like the change to come into effect;

  • how this change might impact upon your school/college and how this might be dealt with, although you should not be expected to produce a detailed impact assessment;

  • a statement to clarify if you have made a previous application for flexible working and when this was made; and

  • if your request is being made as part of a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.

It is important to note, that the changes brought in from April 6 2024 mean that you no longer have to explain what effect you think agreeing to your request would have on your school/college, including your colleagues and how any such effect might be dealt with, although it might enhance the chances of a successful application.

The Union has produced a template letter along with further advice and guidance to assist members who wish to make a request for flexible working. These can be found on our Flexible Working Further Advice page.

You should check your school/college flexible working policy carefully before making a request, as it may specify a length of service before you are eligible to make a request for flexible working or permit you to make more than one flexible working request in any 12-month period. [2]

Your school/college may also permit you to make a non-statutory request for flexible working, although it should be noted that this does not provide the same protections as it does not represent a contractual change and, as such, could be amended or rescinded by your school/college at any point.

Whilst you are able to make two requests for flexible working in any 12-month period, it is important to note that you can only have one ‘live’ request with your school/college at any one time.

A ‘live’ request for flexible working remains ‘live’ until one of the following occurs:

  • your school/college makes a decision regarding your request;

  • you withdraw the request;

  • you and your school/college mutually agree an outcome; or

  • the statutory two-month period for deciding your request ends.

It should be noted that any request you make will continue to be considered a ‘live’ request during any appeal process, or, if you and your school/college mutually agree to extend the two-month decision period.

What should my school/college do once it has received my request for flexible working?

Your school/college must give serious consideration to your request in a ‘reasonable manner’, which involves weighing up the benefits for you and the school/college against any potential adverse business impact.

This should be done on a case-by-case basis that carefully considers the impact on you of refusing a request. It would therefore be wholly unreasonable for your school/college to adopt a blanket approach that denies flexible working requests.

Holding a consultation meeting with you

Whilst there is no obligation to hold a meeting if your school/college intends to approve your request, your school/college may want to arrange a meeting to discuss the details of your request with you.

However, if your school/college wishes to discuss alternative arrangements that you may be willing to consider to have your request accepted, or, it is considering rejecting your request, then your school/college must consult with you before making a decision.

As such, your school/college should invite you to a consultation meeting to discuss your request which provides the opportunity to ensure all the relevant information is appropriately understood before a decision is reached. This should be held at a mutually agreeable date and time

Further advice and guidance can be found on attending a meeting and the right to be accompanied can be found on our Flexible Working Further Advice page.

It should be noted that your school/college can treat your request as being withdrawn if you miss two meetings to discuss your request. If this is the case, your school/college should communicate this to you in writing.

What happens after the discussion?

If your school/college accepts your request, or accepts it with modifications, they should write to you no later than 28 days after your request was approved, confirming the start date and that this is a permanent variation to your contract and terms and conditions of employment, e.g. working hours and pay.

What happens if the school/college rejects my request?

If your school/college rejects your request, they must have sound business reason for doing so, which should be conveyed to you in writing.

Your school/college can only reject your request based on one or more of the following eight business reasons:

  • the burden of additional costs;

  • an inability to organise work among existing staff;

  • a planned structural change to the school/college;

  • a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demands;

  • a detrimental impact on performance;

  • a detrimental impact on quality;

  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work; and

  • an inability to recruit additional staff.

It should also set out any additional information which is reasonable to help explain the decision.

Can I appeal against a decision to refuse my request for flexible working?

Whilst there is no statutory right to an appeal hearing, it is seen as good practice and is recommended in the Acas Code of Practice on requests for flexible working.

If you decide to lodge an appeal, this should be convened as soon as possible at a mutually convenient date by someone who is appropriately trained to deal with the appeal in an impartial and objective way.

At the appeal, you should be invited to present their case and allowed the opportunity to ask questions and call witnesses, where appropriate.

Once this has concluded, the person hearing the appeal should write to you outlining the decision.

Further information, including a flowchart of the whole process for making a request for flexible working can be found on our Flexible Working Further Advice page.

It is important to note that decisions regarding requests and appeals must be made within two months of the request being made.

[2] It is the position of the NASUWT that flexible working should be seen as a day one right and that there should be more than one opportunity to apply within a 12-month period. The Union has successfully negotiated these provisions in flexible working policies with a number of multi-academy trusts in England.


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