EduPeople by Strictly Education

Handling Flexible Working Requests Successfully

Handling Flexible Working Requests


If you receive a valid written request for flexible working from a member of staff you must arrange a meeting to discuss it within 28 days and then respond to the request formally within 14 days of the meeting. An employee has a right to appeal against a decision to turn a request down and to be accompanied at any meetings held. A refusal must be based on one or more prescribed grounds, which include the burden of additional costs and/or the inability to reorganise work.


Here are our TOP 10 TIPS for handling flexible working requests successfully:

1. Apply the procedure consistently but consider all requests you receive objectively on their own merits. The fact that another colleague has part-time hours does not mean that any employee is automatically entitled to the same. Consideration of a request will inevitably depend on the individual role being performed. The applicant’s skills and competencies may also have a bearing on the suitability of the proposal. Most schools and colleges have an organisational capacity when it comes to flexible working. Where this has been reached it may become more difficult to grant further requests without risking a negative impact on performance. All refusals of a valid request will, however, still have to be justified.

2. Be open-minded to all proposals you receive, even if your instant reaction is that it won’t work. Start from a positive perspective, looking at how obstacles could be overcome rather than just highlighting problems. You may still ultimately come to the conclusion that the proposal cannot work, but the employee is likely to be more satisfied that the request has been properly considered and the rationale is more likely to stand up to scrutiny if challenged.

3. Be prepared to consider a trial period where you have doubts and where it is feasible to do so. Trial periods are a good way to test out the arrangement in practice and highlight any operational difficulties, giving the chance to work through these without either party making a permanent commitment. This is unlikely to be realistic, however, if you would have to recruit a job-sharing partner from outside the school / college.

4. Where you do agree to part-time working, be clear about other expectations: for example, a commitment to attending parents evenings and INSET days wherever possible. A part-time member of the management team is still likely to be required to put in extra hours where necessary and to be ‘on call’ in an emergency.

5. When considering a job share, make time to factor in discussion about appropriate job share partners. To work, both partners must be good communicators, organised and efficient at record-keeping. Job share teachers need to consider how their approaches may differ in the classroom - this can be confusing to young children - and how this might be overcome (e.g. observing each other teaching). Exposure to different styles of teaching should not, however, of itself, be considered a problem.

6. Record the outcome of discussions in writing, particularly where you have agreed expectations or specifics which might not otherwise be explicitly documented in the employment contract.

7. Don’t turn a request down without considering whether there are alternatives, even if these are quite different to what was originally proposed. You may find a mutually acceptable solution, but even if you don’t you will at least have demonstrated a genuine engagement with the process. Establish what the employee is trying to achieve and see whether their objective could be met, or partly met, in a different way. An employee will generally present a proposal which represents their best case scenario – there can be room for negotiation.

8. Where you are rejecting a request, take the time to explain your response. Your member of staff may still not agree with you but they are more likely to accept that a fair process has been undertaken.

9. If you have organisational reasons for believing that a proposal can only be accommodated on a temporary basis, consider offering it on this basis. Although successful flexible working requests generally represent a permanent change to terms and conditions of employment, there is room to agree to something which is not permanent. Be clear, however, from the outset what you expect to happen at the end of the temporary period.

10. Consider the culture within the school towards work-life balance. Take steps to ensure that an appropriate work-life balance is promoted, encourage your leadership team to set a good example and discourage practices which reduce flexibility or demand unnecessary ‘presenteeism’. This backdrop will help provide a framework for the consideration of specific requests, whether you ultimately agree to them or not. A survey carried out on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development found that workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation... and less likely to quit.