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This is a letter that can be used by an employee or worker to request flexible working arrangements in the United Kingdom. Any such request may be particularly useful in view of the ongoing COVID-19 risks.
Under what circumstances will a flexible working request be made?
A person may wish to make a flexible working request to address:
Who can make a flexible working request?
Those with the status of an employee have a legal right to make (and to have properly considered) a request for flexible working where they have twenty-six weeks' continuous employment on the date the request is made. Only one request can be made by an employee in a twelve month period. Those who do not have the status of an employee (for example where they are a casual worker), are still able to make a request for flexible working however the business is not legally compelled to consider it.
This document can be adapted for those with both employee or worker status. Where the letter is sent by an employee, certain information is compulsory and this information will be incorporated in this document. The full reasoning behind the change can be set out within the letter. Where the change relates to COVID-19, any relevant government guidelines which are relevant at the time of writing should be referred to.
A person who is disabled may also wish to make a request for flexible working/reasonable adjustments. An employer or business must properly consider such requests, regardless of the person's employment status. Where a business fails to do so, there could be repercussions under the Equality Act 2010 (in Great Britain) or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (for the whole of the United Kingdom), in respect of discrimination and a possible constructive dismissal claim.
Exceptions made for NHS staff
In September 2021, the NHS Staff Council announced that NHS staff will not be required to meet the twenty-six week continuous service requirement in order to make a flexible working request. In addition, NHS staff are not limited to making only one request per twelve month period.
Agency workers can sometimes be given the status of an employee but the legal right to flexible working is not afforded to agency workers who are employees (as stated in section 80F(8)(a)(ii) of the Employment Rights Act 1996/Article 112F(8)(a)(ii) or the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996).
There is however one exception to the above bar upon the legal right of an employee agency worker to make such a request. Where an agency worker with employee status has been continuously employed for a period of not less than twenty-six weeks and are returning to work following a period of parental leave, they are afforded the legal right to make a flexible working request.
How this letter should be used
Any legal request made by an employee for flexible working must be made in writing. This letter should therefore be sent to the employer by the employee. It is best practice for workers to also set out the request in writing and so this letter should be sent to the business in the same manner. In most circumstances it should be addressed to the manager or a representative of Human Resources.
Where the request has been made by an employee, the employer must respond to the request within three months from the date the request was made (or longer where the parties mutually agree to this). Where an employer refuses an employee's request, they may only do so on a recognised legal ground. Where the request has been made by a worker, the business should endeavour to respond in line with any policy they have for dealing with such requests.
In the event that an agreement is reached regarding flexible working arrangements, the business/employer will need to consider whether a new contract for employment or contract for work is required in view of any changes to working hours or places of work. Alternatively, an employer may choose to create a standalone remote work agreement.
The business/employer will also need to consider whether to create or revise any relevant workplace policies, for example policies relating to:
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