As furlough ends and you return to the office, you may feel hesitant or unsettled about resuming your previous working schedule and may be in need of a flexible alternative.

Flexible working is any type of working pattern which is different from your existing one. This means for example, changing from full-time to part-time, compressed hours (doing your hours over fewer days), flexitime and changing working hours to fit in with care arrangements.

It’s important that you understand your rights when it comes to flexible working and also your employer’s, which is why we’ve put together some top tips regarding how to request it.

1. Am I eligible for flexible working?

You must make a statutory request. This is a request which is made under the law on flexible working which has a process set out that you and your employer need to follow when you’re negotiating your flexible working request.

To make this request you must be an employee. You must also have worked for your employer for 26 weeks and not have made any other flexible working request in the last 12 months.

2. What if I’m not eligible to make a statutory request?

If you don’t meet the criteria for making a statutory request, you could still make a non-statutory request. This is one which isn’t made under the law on flexible working. There is no set procedure for making a request – but you should do so in writing to ensure it’s clear what you’ve asked for. Your employer may have a flexible working procedure which sets out how they deal with such requests, so ask to see this.

3. What comes next?

Under the statutory scheme, your employer should set up a meeting to talk about your request before making a decision. You can ask your employer if you can bring someone to a flexible working request meeting. Your employer must let you know their decision within three months. If you are not happy with their decision you have the right to appeal.

4. What if my request is approved?

This will mean a permanent change to your contract. They must put it in writing and you can both agree a trial period to make sure the new arrangements work.

5. What if my request is denied?

Sometimes a compromise can be agreed. Not every request for flexible working will have a positive outcome. Your employer’s refusal can be perfectly justified if your request has been considered carefully and reasonably. It just isn’t possible to accommodate your request without a negative effect on the business. This can include it being too costly, they cannot recruit more staff or they cannot reorganise the work among staff.

If you feel your request was denied unfairly, you can also formally raise a grievance.

If you are struggling with a problem regarding flexible working, for help visit our national Citizens Advice self-help tools or contact us.