Should a four-day week mean squeezing five days into four?: ask the expert

I’ve just had a meeting with our HR Advisor. I told her that I would like to change from a five-day week to a four-day week. She said this would entail me squeezing everything I do into a four-day week, as this is how it works.
My understanding was that I would carry out only four days worth of work, not be pressurised into squeezing the work into four days. Many thanks for you help.

There is nothing to stop any member of staff asking their employer to vary their working pattern, regardless of their length of service or employment status.  In addition, an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous employment has a statutory right to request to work flexibly and the change can relate to hours, times or place of work. (This right does not however apply to self-employed contractors, consultants or agency workers.)

NB A formal application by you for flexible working must be in writing, be dated, state that it is an application made under the statutory procedure, detail the changes the employee is seeking and how such changes could be dealt with by your employer. The application should also state whether you have has previously made an application for flexible working and when this was. (An employee can, however, only make one such request in a 12-month period, with time being counted from the date on which they make their request.)

It is not clear whether you have made a formal application for flexible working or whether you have done this informally.  My advice is that you should lodge a formal grievance in writing in respect of the response that you have received to your flexible working request.  Furthermore, if your application was not made on a formal basis (i.e. in writing, dated etc as explained above), you should also confirm that you wish to now make a formal application under the statutory procedure.

As part of this formal flexible working request you need to consider how the proposed change in your working pattern may cause difficulties for your employer. Put forward suggestions as to how those difficulties could be resolved e.g. could you do your job on a job share and could they recruit someone for you to job share with? You may wish to try and be creative in how the change in hours could work for both you and your employer.

Your employer is under a duty to deal with a request for flexible working in a reasonable manner and should deal with the request within three months.  Your employer can only refuse your request under one of eight statutory reasons:

1. The burden of additional costs;

2. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;

3. Inability to reorganise work among existing staff;

4. Inability to recruit additional staff;

5. Detrimental impact on quality;

6. Detrimental impact on performance;

7. Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;

8. Planned structural changes.

It is not a proper and fair response for your employer to state that you can squeeze everything you do into a four-day week.   You should set out in your grievance letter that you understand that you would receive reduced  pay on a  pro rata basis for reduced work, ie 4/5 of your salary for four days work.   You should state that the HR advisor’s  response to your request (being that you would squeeze everything you do into a four-day week) goes completely against the spirit and intention of the Flexible Working Regulations and would amount to a breach of the same.

An employee who has made a valid formal request can complain to an employment tribunal within approximately three months of the decision (after firstly competing the ACAS Conciliation process)  if they feel that their employer has not dealt with it properly and in a reasonable manner. If your employer has not taken your request seriously or the refusal was based on incorrect facts then you may be able to bring a claim in respect of a breach of the statutory flexible working procedure, and/or resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal and potentially also sex discrimination.

If you would like some further advice regarding the above, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 53873.


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