What is flexible working?

What is flexible working? Some mistakenly perceive it as being purely about part-time working, although part-time working itself comes in many different forms. Moreover, all sorts of other names have sprung up in recent years – smart working and agile working being the most prominent – which are about working in different ways than the standard 9am-5pm in one place.



According to dictionary definitions, flexible working “gives employees flexibility on how long, where and when they work”. It therefore encompasses everything from part-time working to homeworking. These are some of the most common forms it takes:

Part-time working

This can include a variety of different ways of working:

– Reduced hours, for instance, working three days a week. This includes job shares. Job shares can be split in various ways between two workers. They may include a crossover day with some element of handover. Check if there is a colleague you know who wants to go part time who you could share with. Some employers have job share registers and there are some job share agencies where you can find job share partners.

– Annualised hours – this is where you work longer hours at busy times of the year and shorter hours at other times.

– Term-time hours – where you have all the school holidays off. You may be paid only for the weeks you work or you could negotiate to spread your pay evenly over the year.

Flexi hours

This is where you come in early and leave early or come in late and leave late. This can be done on a formal or informal basis – for instance, if you need to drop off at nursery every morning or if you just need to leave early one afternoon for a school event.

Compressed hours

This is where you work full-time hours, but over fewer days because you work longer hours on some days.

Home or remote working

This is where you work from home or from another location eg a hub close to your home to cut your commute. You could be fully based at home or remotely or do this for part of the working week only.

Some people work with several different forms of flexibility. All of this can be negotiated with a manager. Flexible working can be agreed formally, through a flexible working request, or informally. A formal request, if agreed, means that your terms and conditions will be permanently changed. For a formal request you must show you have considered the potential impact of your request on your employer. There are eight reasons your request can be turned down and you can appeal if you believe the reasons given are bogus or if you believe your employer has just dismissed your request out of hand without considering it.

Different forms of flexibility work for different jobs. Clearly homeworking is not possible if, say, you work in a shop, although all jobs these days are changing fast, including in the retail sector. However, most can be made more flexible. It is just up to managers, workers and teams to collaborate to find what works best for everyone concerned.

To work out holidays if you work flexibly and full-timers in your organisation get the statutory minimum [28 days a year], click here. If full timers get more than the statutory minimum you will get a pro rata [a percentage] of full-time workers’ holiday at your organisation, including bank holidays. For instance, if you work three full days a week instead of five, you will get 3/5ths of whatever full timers get or 60%. To work out your holiday entitlement if you work flexibly, click here.

To calculate your salary if you work less than full-time hours, click here.

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