What are flex hours at work? (Plus FAQs and answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Flex hours at work, also known as flexitime or flexible working, describe a working arrangement whereby employees have a designated number of hours to complete in a week and can do so flexibly, according to their own schedule. This gives staff the freedom to find their own work-life balance, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and a reduced employee turnover rate. Understanding how this working arrangement works may help you decide whether you want to work this way yourself. In this article, we define the concept of flex hours at work and answer some FAQs on the subject.

What are flex hours at work?

Many companies offer their employees flex hours at work because it provides several benefits to both parties. Employees gain the freedom to set their own schedule, meaning they don't experience burnout quite as frequently. Employers, in turn, benefit from an increased level of productivity from staff. Under this arrangement, employers set the number of hours for each employee to complete. Employees then work these hours over the course of a week, organising their schedule around their personal lives and commitments. This enables staff to finish early if something important arises or alter their shift pattern for personal reasons.

Related: 13 essential work from home tips

Flexible working FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions surrounding the topic of flexible working, along with answers:

Does flexible working involve remote working?

Flexible working arrangements don't necessarily involve working remotely, though many companies with remote workforces use flexible working patterns for staff. When staff work from home, flexible working patterns are typically more convenient and less disruptive. Because remote working staff aren't required to travel to an office or other building, which may have set opening and closing hours, they typically have more time in a day to complete their work. Flexible working also enables those working from home to take ad hoc breaks and attend to other responsibilities, such as looking after children or taking their dog for a walk.

Related: Telecommuting benefits: definition and tips for telecommuters

Can I request a flexible working arrangement from my employer?

Yes. The law requires employers to ‘seriously consider' your request if you're eligible for flexible working. You can make a statutory request if you've been with your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks and you haven't made a previous request over the last 12 months. Here's an outline of the application process:

  • Write to your employer: The first step is to write a formal letter to your employer explaining your desire to work flexibly. Be sure to state that you're making a statutory request, including the date and any details about your request.

  • Employer considers application: The employer then has three months to decide whether to grant your request. The decision time may take longer if you make an agreement with your employer to this effect.

  • Employer changes the terms and conditions of your contract: If your employer agrees to the request, they then make adjustments to your contract to reflect the new arrangement.

  • If the employer disagrees, they explain why: If your employer refuses your request, they can write a letter to you justifying the business's decision. If you disagree with their justification, you can raise a complaint with an employment tribunal.

What's the difference between part-flex and full-flex?

Flexible working arrangements are different for each employee. A flexible working arrangement may be a typical working arrangement with some minor adjustments. For example, your employer may allow you to work from home, according to your own schedule, on a set day each week, which constitutes part-flex. A fully flexible working arrangement typically involves employees setting their own schedules, as long as they can complete their designated working hours. They may also have the freedom to work from home or on the business premises. Full-flex and part-flex refer to the level of control employees have over their schedules.

Related: Q&A: what is remote work?

If my employer refuses my flexible working application, can I appeal?

Within two weeks of receiving your refusal letter, you can appeal by writing a response to your employer, following which they should arrange for a meeting to take place. After the meeting, your employer has another two weeks to accept or refuse your appeal. If you disagree with their justification for the refusal, you can escalate the matter through your company's complaints procedure. If you're still unsatisfied, you can go to an employment tribunal. Here are some reasons to go to an employment tribunal:

  • Your employer handled the request unreasonably: The government defines handling a request unreasonably as not offering an appeals process, not assessing the pros and cons of your application and not offering a meeting to discuss the request.

  • They incorrectly treated your application as withdrawn: If your employer knowingly or unknowingly treats your application as withdrawn, this can be grounds to go to a tribunal. You might resolve the matter internally if it was an honest mistake.

  • Your employer dismissed or penalised you as a result of your application: Your employer cannot treat you poorly if you apply for flexible working. This includes refusing you a promotion or pay increase because you made the application.

  • They rejected your application based on inaccurate information: If you accidentally provide incorrect facts on your application, you can try to resolve this matter internally. If your employer refuses your application because of incorrect facts you didn't provide, this can be grounds to go to a tribunal.

You can't go to a tribunal purely because your employer rejects your application and you're unhappy with the decision, but you can if any of the above-outlined events occur. If you're unsure about your employment rights, you can seek legal advice.

Related: How to ask to work from home in six practical steps

Benefits of flex hours for employers

Flexible working is highly beneficial for certain companies that are well-suited to this kind of arrangement. Here are some benefits of flex hours for employers:

  • Increased employee retention: Employees may view the opportunity to work flexibly as a benefit that many companies don't provide, which is an incentive to stay with the employer. Additionally, flexible working can reduce burnout and give employees a better work-life balance, making them happier and less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

  • Increased productivity: Because flexible working can make staff happier and more engaged, they're more likely to produce better quality work in greater quantities. Focusing on increasing the happiness of your staff can also make them less likely to take sick days.

  • Extend your operating hours: The traditional nine-to-five model can be restrictive to certain businesses such as production factories, which provide premises and machines for employees to use for a set time each day. Companies that can work flexibly can extend their operating hours cheaply and without reorganising their business model because employees can simply turn on their computers at home and begin working regardless of the time.

  • Can boost profits: For some businesses, it may be feasible to dispense with business premises entirely and use fully flexible remote workforces. This eliminates the expenses associated with operating business premises, such as rent and energy bills, which ultimately boosts profitability.

Benefits of flex hours for employees

Employees also see many benefits from the implementation of flexible working arrangements. Here are some of them in more detail:

  • Reduced burnout: Starting and finishing work according to your body's needs can greatly reduce the chance of experiencing burnout. This means employees can better maintain their health and wellbeing, which is beneficial to their health and long-term productivity.

  • Less stress: Having the freedom to complete work according to your own pace can relieve you of the pressure of working according to another person's schedule. Some full-flex employees also work from home, meaning they don't deal with the potential stress of the daily commute.

  • Save time and money: Not commuting to work also saves staff money on petrol and other car-related expenses. This can save a lot of time and money over the course of a typical working year.

  • Increased job satisfaction: Staff typically enjoys flexible working arrangements, as it gives them more freedom in managing their responsibilities. It also conveys trust on the employer's part, making staff feel valued and responsible.

  • Better work-life balance: Under flexible working arrangements, staff are free to attend to the other responsibilities in their life, in addition to their hobbies and interests. This can have a positive impact on people who didn't previously have time for activities outside of work.

Related:

  • Q&A: What Is Telecommuting?

  • What is time management?


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