The clock changes and flexible working schedules: your employment rights

The clock change in winter can seem like a small thing, but it can play havoc with parents’ schedules. Karen Holden from A City Law Firm uses this as a jumping off point to discuss flexible employment rights.

illustration showing clock


The clock going back an hour may seem a small thing, but Karen Holden, from A City Law Firm, says it can have a big impact on parents.

Time changes of any kind affect the way employees show up to work and it is down to the employer to set expectations. Generally, for employees who normally work a night shift at this time of year find it confusing and tiring when the clocks change. How employers respond is usually dictated by statutory rules on working time and wages as well as anything mentioned in an employment contract related to work expectations.

Likewise, working mums with young children may struggle to get their children on the right schedule for school and work. This can have an impact at work, including a lack of energy and working parents may need to adjust their working style and schedule to make up for the potential additional stress involved.

This is on top of existing pressures. A study of 1,001 UK parents of children under five years old, conducted in October 2022, found that 67 per cent had considered leaving their jobs under the pressure of juggling childcare and work. Single mothers have faced even greater problems – 10 percent more single mothers report spending an additional three or more hours per day on housework and childcare than mothers overall.

Furthermore, nearly a quarter of mothers said they worried that their work performance was being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities, compared with 11 percent of fathers.

Flexible working

One employment right that helps is the right to request flexible working. If you believe you would benefit from a flexible working request. The law is currently being updated, possibly next year, when the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill comes into effect.  This has made it possible to put in two statutory flexible working requests within a 12-year period, instead of one.

Flexible requests can include:
 reducing your hours to work part time
 changing your start and finish times
 having flexibility with your start and finish time (sometimes known as ‘flexitime’)
 doing your hours over fewer days (‘compressed hours’)
 working from home or elsewhere (‘remote working’)
 sharing your job with someone else (‘job share’)

However, you should note that you do not have a legal right to this if the business case for rejecting your request is stronger. However, any employer would be foolish not to carefully consider requests, at this present time as onboarding and recruiting new staff is distracting and costly. Employers must also be very careful to ensure any decisions are not discriminatory.

Always worth a chat?

You may also consider informally discussing how to go about making a request with your employer ahead of submitting a request. If you have any concerns that making this request would cause detriment to your experience in the workplace, be sure that the Employment Rights Act 1996 also provides protection for employees from suffering a detriment or being dismissed because of making or proposing to make a statutory flexible working request. If in doubt take advice and look at your contract and staff policies, but if you work in a stable environment hopefully your line manager or HR can guide you.

Legal protection

A special focus on parents has been made in the Equality Act 2010 providing the strongest protection for many parents and carers who need to change their hours to work more flexibly. It protects workers and employees from discrimination and is a day one right.

In additiion to enabling employees to make two requests for flexible working in the same 12-month period, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill passed in July 2023 and due to come into effect in 2024:
 requires employers to consult with an employee before rejecting a flexible working request
 reduces the amount of time employers have to decide on whether to approve or reject a request for flexible working from three months to two months
 removes the requirement that employees must explain the effect of their request on the employer.

If you do not qualify for a statutory request at this time in your employment, but feel it is of the upmost importance to improve your work-life balance in order for you to succeed in your job it is worth looking back at you contract terms and job description. Consider negotiating over your terms and conditions and expected performance with your employer. If time off is the best option for you yet in the cost-of-living crisis you have concerns over the pay cut needed to make it possible, please explore Child Benefits, Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit to cover any of the incurred cost related to taking this time off or any childcare responsibilities needed. If you are a low-income earner Universal Credit or other support may also be an option for you*.

*Karen Holden is founder of A City Law Firm.  If you have any questions regarding these employment laws or the support that could be available to you you could contact A City Law Firm. Moreover, if you feel you have been discriminated against based on your right to request flexibility at your work or you would care to discuss the terms of your employment contract the firm has lawyers ready to advise you in any employment law matters you may require.

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