All employees, who have 26 weeks of service at the date of application, have the statutory right to request to work flexibly.
This includes working part-time or under some other form of flexible working arrangement, eg working from home.
You have a legal duty to consider any such request seriously - and you may only reject it on a limited number of specified business grounds.
For more information on statutory flexible working requests, see flexible working - the law and best practice.
Considering whether part-time working is appropriate
Before taking a decision, you need to consider:
- if a job-share would be appropriate and whether there is a suitable candidate to work as the other job sharer - see introducing job-sharing
- whether someone needs to be present in the post during all hours of work
- whether all the necessary work can be done in the number of hours the worker wants to work
- whether there is a similar type of job the worker could do part-time
- the cost of recruiting and training a replacement if a compromise cannot be found
- the business benefits of a part-time arrangement
- the consequences on the business' systems, procedures and resources
- reaching agreement with workers and/or their representatives before making changes
- any effects on other staff
Bear in mind that, once you agree to a part-time working arrangement, this is a permanent change to the worker's terms and conditions of employment (unless you agree otherwise). You should notify the worker of this, pointing out in particular that they will receive less pay as a result.
Requests from part-time workers to work full time
If a part-time worker requests a change to full-time hours, you have no legal duty to agree to - or even consider - such a request unless otherwise agreed.
However, it is best practice to at least ask the worker to provide you with a good reason as to why this would help your business.
You could then consider whether or not:
- there is sufficient work for the increased hours
- you could use the extra hours to reorganise a number of jobs to make them more effective
- your business could afford the increase in pay, bearing in mind that you could offset any increase against saving money on recruitment
If you refuse the request, you should explain why and/or look for alternative ways of reshaping the job.
Flexible working policies
If you don't have one already, consider putting together a policy for dealing with all flexible-working requests. This will help you deal with such requests consistently and fairly.
Your policy should also cover recruitment and part-time working, ie how you would consider requests to work part-time from both internal and external job applicants applying for full-time positions.
You should, if possible, assess all the jobs in your business - including skilled and managerial ones - to determine which, if any, could be performed part-time or under a job-sharing arrangement.
See how to set up employment policies for your business.
Practical measures to facilitate part-time working
If you are a larger employer, you could consider:
- offering a contribution towards childcare costs
- providing childcare facilities on site, eg a nursery
If you have new employees who are parents, and who would like to find out if they are entitled to any other form of financial support with their childcare costs, the Employers for Childcare Family Benefits Advice Service can help – Tel 0800 028 3008 for free, impartial and confidential advice (lines open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm).
You might also consider introducing other flexible forms of working, such as term-time working, lunch-time working, flexi-time and home-working. See flexible working - the law and best practice.