One way to try and balance your commitments as a carer with those of your job is by requesting what is known as ‘flexible working’. This allows you to change how much, when and where you work, so that your job can fit in better around your caring responsibilities.
For instance, you could request to change how many hours you work and which days these hours fall on. You also could ask to have some flexibility around when you start and finish each day, sometimes known as ‘flexi-time’. Or you could see if your employer would allow you to work from a more convenient location, including from home. It is also quite common to request working what is known as ‘compressed hours’. This is where you fit your work into a shorter number of longer days, for example working a week’s worth of hours over only four days, or a fortnight’s over nine days. Think about the options that would work best for you, whilst still being practical for you to do your job.
As a starting point for accessing this, it is a good idea to have a look at your organisation’s Flexible Working Policy, if they have one. This might be in your Staff Handbook, or can be requested from Human Resources. This policy will contain details of the contractual rights your employer has already agreed to, including the options that are open to you and the process for how to apply.
If your employer doesn’t have their own process, then you may still have some legal rights available to you. If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (around six months), you have the legal right to request flexible working. You don’t need to have a particular reason for the request and you should not receive any negative repercussions at work from it.
Under the statutory process, you must apply for flexible working in writing. You can only do so once every 12 months, whether it is granted or not, so it is worth making sure you put forward as strong a case as you can first time. If you are eligible to apply, it is a good idea to begin the process as soon as possible as your employer is able to take up to three months to consider the application (and possibly even longer if you agree to an extension).
To apply, you need to write either a letter or an email to your employer with your request. Your application should include how exactly you would like your working pattern to be changed, how your employer could adapt to these changes and when you would like this flexible working to begin. Make sure to also include the date you are applying on, mention any previous flexible working applications you might have made and state that you are making a statutory flexible working request. You don’t have to include anything about your personal circumstances if you don’t want to, but it can often help your case if you are able to explain why you want to work flexibly and provide any evidence you have.
The next step is likely to be that your employer will request a meeting with you to discuss it further and see what can be worked out. If you would like to, you can take either a colleague or a representative from your trade union with you. If you do not turn up to two of these meetings in a row without giving a good reason, then they can treat it as though you have withdrawn your request.
Bear in mind that your employer may not grant your request – the law only says that they must give it serious consideration, but they do not have to say yes. If your employer seems a bit reticent, you could consider suggesting a commitment-free trial to see if the new setup works for all of you. If they do end up saying no, it must be due to one or more specific business reasons that are set out in law, and they must explain to you why your request was refused. If they say yes, then they should tell you in writing what you have all agreed to, and change your employment contract to reflect your new situation.
If you have not worked for your current employer for 26 weeks yet, you may still want to talk to them anyway and see whether they are willing to help. Although you don’t have the right for them to consider it officially, they may still grant your request. More and more employers are starting to recognise that it can be worth supporting their staff to have flexible working in order to keep good employees and be somewhere people want to work.