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Flexible working for parents - what are your rights?

Find out what your rights are when it comes to requesting flexible working hours, so that you can balance your work-life with your role as a parent.
When the new responsibility of being a parent becomes a reality, juggling your work and home-life can quickly become a strain. If you return to work soon after having your baby you may feel that you are missing out on your child's development, or are finding it hard to fit your working hours around nursery hours and other new commitments.

Luckily, help is at hand. We explain what your rights are when it comes to working flexibly as a parent, and how you can go about applying for flexible working hours with your employer.

Who can apply for flexible working hours?

Until recently parents of children under 6 years old, or of disabled children under 18 years old, were eligible to request flexible working hours. However from 6th April, 2009, this right has been extended to all parents of children aged 16 and under.

So, if you have parental responsibility for a child aged 16 or under (or a disabled child under 18 years) you have the right to request that your working hours are made more flexible.

Generally you will be eligible to request flexible working hours if you have worked for your current employer for 26 weeks or more, are not an agency worker, and have not made a similar application in the last 12 months. You will also be more likely to be granted access to flexible hours if you work for an organisation that recognises unions.

What are 'flexible working hours'?

In order to better fit the time you need to look after your little one around your work commitments, you can request to either reduce or rearrange your hours in the following ways:
  • Working from home or teleworking.
    You may be able to make your work-day more flexible by working some days or hours from home, while maintaining contact with your employer via phone, fax, or email.

  • Job-sharing.
    It may be possible for you to share your work-duties with another employee, thereby decreasing your work-load.

  • Term-time working.
    You may be granted paid or unpaid leave during your child's school holidays.

  • Compressed hours.
    If you work 5 days a week you may be able to compress your hours so that you only work 4 days a week, for example.

  • Flexi-time.
    You may be granted flexibility with regards to when you work your hours, for example working 8am - 4pm instead of 9am - 5pm.

  • Part-time working.
    You may be able to reduce the number of hours you work in a week.
How do I request flexible working hours?

If you would like to request that your work-day is made more flexible you will have to make a written application to your employer. Include the following in your application:
  • State that the application is being made under the statutory right to apply for flexible working as a parent.

  • Confirm your relationship with your child - state that you are your child's mother, father, etc.

  • Set out the proposed change to your working hours and explain what effect this would have on your employer.

  • Explain how you think this could be accommodated at your workplace.

  • Make sure your application is dated.
You might want to request that you have flexible hours only for a specified amount of time while you re-establish a work/home balance in your life, after which you could revert to your old hours.

What will happen to my application?

Your employer will either grant your request immediately, or they will arrange a meeting with you within 28 days of receiving the application. They will then notify you within 14 days of the meeting about their decision.

Your employer will either accept the request and give you a start date, propose an alternative arrangement, or reject the request but give you information on how to appeal.

If your request is rejected, it will have to be on one of the following grounds:
  • Your request for flexible hours will cause too many additional costs to your employer.

  • It will have a detrimental effect on your company's ability to meet customer demand, on the quality of your work, or on your performance.

  • Your employer is unable to reorganise your work among existing staff or recruit additional staff.

  • Planned structural changes to your company will be affected by your new working hours.
Remember to check your existing contract with your employer before applying for flexible hours, as you may already be offered an arrangement in your contract that suits you and your child.

Find out more about being a working parent, and how to maintain a healthy work/life balance, at

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Forgot your

hi my son is 3months old and im due to return back to my full time employment in 3mths.iwould like to know wat benefits would iget if igo part time..
by kim10 21st May 2010, 4:08pm
I am in the position where I do not want to go back to full time work and my employer will not take me back on a part time basis. What rights do I have & am I entitled to compensation if my employer refuses my application for part time employment?
by MelJay 14th May 2010, 4:13pm
Hi, my son is six months old and iam due to return back to my full time employment in 3 months. Iam still unsure of how many days i should return for, what help is out there for child care and any benefits i am entitled to
by donski1980 27th Jan 2010, 9:36am
I was told by my employer that I could only return to work on a part time basis if a particular person known to them would job share with me. This person does not want to work for this company any more and has rejected the idea of job sharing. I am in the position where I do not want to go back to full time work and my employer will not take me back on a part time basis. What rights do I have & am I entitled to compensation if my employer refuses my application for part time employment?
by febee 16th Dec 2009, 6:09pm
hi, im 24 and i work about 16 hours a week. i have a 2 and half year old, i was wondering if i was entitled to both working tax credit and jobseekers allowance. please help i would really like your thought
by malaika 28th Aug 2009, 8:26am
hi im single parent and my daughter is six and im on income support also registered childminding now and i wanted to know would i be getting help with grant to get back to work
by heathermcconnell 19th Aug 2009, 9:08am
my dauta iz nw 2
so i want 2 strt wrkin
hw do i go abt it
with flexable wrkin??
by lol22 31st Jul 2009, 2:29pm
It is good that you have the right to request Flexible working hours however if your Company like mine does not agree with the idea of Flexible working hours then it is pointless. Basically the law says you can ask but your Company has no obligation to actually be flexible. The grounds for rejecting your request cover the Company.It is very frustrating and I am finding it incredibly hard to juggle both working and motherhood.
by JOMA 15th Jul 2009, 11:49am