Should I be able to increase my hours?

I have worked in the same role for almost five years and my contracted hours have changed from 27 hours a week to 17.25 hours. These changed to work around university and childcare and in these instances my employer has been great. I had to quit university last year due to health reasons and I was unable to apply for a full-time position due to waiting to have a procedure in January. I have struggled financially since then. Since having this procedure and being fully recovered I have applied to go full time even if just temporarily and I have offered to be flexible and work whatever hours they can give me. I have since been told that there’s isn’t the need or availability for additional hours, but have found out that they are still recruiting temporary staff through a temp agency. The role they are recruiting for is at the same role and level that I am at. I could apply through the temp agency, but surely this is unfair as they are giving preference to temp agency staff and there must be available and need for the extra staff and hours as they are recruiting for this externally? Should I make a complaint?

Stressed woman in office


I note that you have been employed by your current employer for around fuve years and that you work 17.25 hours per week. I understand that after having recovered from health concerns you have now applied to increase your hours. I understand that your request to work additional hours has been refused. However, you are aware that your employer is recruiting temporary staff through an agency into the same role and on the same level that you are. You state that you of course could apply for additional roles through an agency, but you have queried whether or not it is unfair that external staff are seemingly being preferred to internal staff.

I am not clear whether your request to change your hours has been treated as a formal flexible working request. If it has not, I would advise you to submit a formal flexible working request to your employer. This means that your employer then needs to deal with your request in accordance with legal provisions – your employer must deal with your requests in a reasonable manner and must notify you of its decision within a three-month period. Importantly, your employer can only refuse your request on one or more of eight business grounds set out in the legislation, which are as follows: –

  • The burden of additional costs;
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • Inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff;
  • Inability to recruit additional staff;
  • Detrimental impact on quality;
  • Detrimental impact on performance;
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or
  • Planned structural changes.

If your employer does not comply with the provisions in the legislation, you will be able to submit certain claims to the Employment Tribunal. For example, you would be able to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal if your employer fails to deal with your application in a reasonable manner and/or fails to notify you of its decision within three months. Furthermore, you would also have a claim if your employer rejects your application for a reason other than one of those specified in the legalisation.

Although you have no right to be treated in a preferential way to external staff, a failure by your employer to consider your request to change your hours whilst it is still recruiting temporary staff through an agency may be an indication that your employer has failed to deal with your flexible working application in a reasonable manner. Please note that any such claim must be brought to the Employment Tribunal within three months and you would need to go through the ACAS Pre-Conciliation process before a Tribunal would accept your claim.

If you require further assistance please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.

*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.

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