Requests to change hours of work and patterns of work - guidance for employees

Oxford Brookes is committed to promoting and practising equal opportunities in employment. This includes giving employees, wherever practicable, the opportunity to work more flexibly. The University supports a variety of forms of flexible working including part-time or part-year working, job sharing, compressed hours and flexi-time. Although there is no automatic right for employees to work flexibly the University is keen to ensure that all requests are considered fairly and all options are explored fully before any decisions are made.

The purpose of this guidance is to assist employees when requesting a change to their hours or pattern of work. It should be read before a ‘Request to Change Hours or Pattern of Work’ application form is submitted, and in conjunction with the University’s policy on the Right to Request a Change in Hours or Working Patterns.

This guidance reflects the legislative framework as laid out in the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform guide for employers and employees Flexible Working – The right to request and the duty to consider’.

The right to request a change

Employees with 26 weeks continuous service with the University who have a child under the age of 16 or a disabled child under the age of 18 , or are the carer of an adult have a statutory right to request a change in their working hours.

(A carer is someone who is or expects to be caring for an adult who: is married to, or the partner or civil partner of the employee, or is a relative of the employee, or falls into neither category but lives at the same address as the employee.)

As a reflection of its commitment to offering flexible working patterns, and helping employees balance paid work and their personal life, the University has extended the entitlement to request a change of hours and/or pattern of work to all employees with 26 weeks continuous service.

Responsibility of employees submitting a request

The University expects all managers to consider requests for flexible working carefully and thoroughly before making a decision. To help them in this process it is important that employees understand the guidelines managers are working to and the type of evidence they can provide to support their case and make the decision making process more effective.

It is the responsibility of employees to ensure that when submitting an application:

  • The information provided is clear, thorough and carefully thought out
  • They have wherever possible, discussed their request with colleagues and obtained their views on the changes proposed and implications for the teams work pattern
  • They understand the time frames involved (i.e. to avoid problems they submit a request at least two months before they would like the new pattern of working to start)

Essential grounds for refusal

Managers are entitled to refuse a request if there is evidence that it will impact on the effective operation of a team, department or Faculty/Directorate. The business grounds for refusal can only be one (or more) of the following:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff (due for example to a request for an unusual working pattern)
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the period the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes

Submitting an application

The initial application process provides staff with the opportunity to set out in as much detail as possible the pattern of working they would like and how they believe it could be implemented. Employees are not expected to know everything that might concern their manager but it is in their interest to make the application as comprehensive as possible. The more relevant and supportive the information the more likely it is that the request will be successful. For example an application could include:

  • A clear description of the working pattern requested
  • The date that they would like the new pattern of working to start – the more warning that can be given to managers the better.
  • A review of existing workload patterns and an identification of how that workload will be managed with the changed pattern of working e.g.
    • How does the workload currently split across the day/week/year?
    • How much of the current workload is time/location specific?
    • If an early start or late finish is involved on any days what work could be done during those periods?
  • What effect the pattern of working will have on the operation of the team and how that could be accommodated/managed (e.g. if an employee recognises that a particular element of the new working pattern could be a potential problem it is in their interest to suggest how that problem could be overcome).
  • How the new pattern of work could be beneficial to the effective operation of their team
  • A consideration of how the new pattern of working might impact (if at all) on colleagues, how that impact could be managed and support statements from relevant colleagues.
  • How similar patterns of working have been managed elsewhere in the University or at other employers.

An application is most likely to be successful if shows that it has considered the requirements of the job and possible business implications of the changed pattern of working and has identified how that pattern can be accommodated without impacting on the performance of team/department etc.

Employees should submit their application on the change in working hours/pattern of work form to their Dean of Faculty or, in the case of Directorates, their Director at least 2 months before they wish the new pattern of working to start. Copies should be sent to their line manager and link HR manager.

The initial meeting and the duty to consider

Once a request for a flexible working pattern has been submitted managers are required to hold a meeting within 28 days to consider the request. Employees have the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or a trade union representative.

The meeting provides an opportunity for both parties to explore the options available and to clarify any concerns or questions they may have. If managers are worried that the working pattern applied for could be problematic the meeting allows both sides to look at how the suggested working pattern could be managed and where necessary to suggest and explore alternatives. It is important that employees understand that the manager may have legitimate concerns and questions about the changes pattern of working and that they address them as fully as possible.

No decisions will be taken at the meeting itself. The Dean/Director or delegated manager will complete the response portion of the request form and send it to HR . The link HR manager will provide a written response to the request within 14 days of the meeting.

What happens if a request is refused?

The University requires managers to consider all requests carefully and to only refuse them where clear and genuine business grounds are given to justify that refusal. Managers are expected to have sufficient evidence and good and verifiable reasons to support any refusal.

On occasions it will simply not be possible for a request to be granted in full. If managers do not feel it would be possible to accommodate the exact pattern of working requested they will, where possible, suggest an alternative. It is in the interest of employees to be flexible and, where clear problems have been highlighted, to consider any alternatives offered. However if the employee feels, for example, that the request has not been considered fairly and fully, that the grounds given for refusal are not genuine or that the alternative working pattern offered was not suitable they have the right to appeal against the decision.

Making an appeal

Employees who wish to appeal against a refusal of a request must do so within 14 days of notification of the decision to the Director of Human Resources . Appeals can be made for any reason but could include:

  • Presenting additional supportive information not available at the time of the original request.
  • Challenging evidence used to refuse the request.
  • Suggesting a compromise option

As with the original application it is important for employees to ensure that the information they submit is as comprehensive as possible.

If a request is rejected at appeal employees are entitled to use the grievance procedure to pursue the matter further.

Further advice and guidance

If employees have any concerns about how to make a request (or to appeal against a refusal) for flexible working further advice and guidance is available from the Directorate of Human Resources. To support staff and managers i n understanding how flexible working patterns can be managed Oxford Brookes has a produced a good practice guide which provides university based examples as well as relevant examples from other employers on the implementation details of work-life balance policies and practices. An online version of this is available, see good practice guide.

Further useful information is available on the Equal Opportunities Commission website.

Policy update and responsibilities

This guidance was last updated in May 2008 and will next be reviewed in May 2009. Responsibility for this policy lies with the HR Team (Equal Opportunity and Diversity).