Flexibility FAQs

Please find below some common FAQs in relation to flexible working. If you have any queries about the University's policy that are not addressed here, please contact equality@contacts.bham.ac.uk


 1. What is 'flexible working'?

Flexible working describes any working arrangement where:

  • the hours or proportion of the week worked, or
  • when and where work takes place, varies from the standard practice for a post.



 2. Who can request to work flexibly?

All staff with 26 weeks continuous service have the statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement. One statutory request can be made per member of staff in any 12 month period. The process and application form can be found here

Originally the right to request a flexible working arrangement only applied to staff with children or other caring responsibilities. That right has now been extended so that all staff have the right to request flexible working, regardless of the reason. 

 3. Does my manager have to grant the request? 

The University, via your manager, has a statutory duty to seriously consider your flexible working request and cannot reject it outright. ‘Serious consideration’ means considering your request against operational needs and whether those needs would still be able to be met under your proposed arrangement. The flexible working application form asks you to state what you think the impact of your proposal will be, and to include your suggestions for how work could be managed to minimise any impact on quality and performance.

Often requests and business needs will be compatible or, if not, a compromise can usually be reached. There is, however, no automatic right to a flexible working arrangement and managers can, after serious consideration, reject a request on the basis of any of the following eight statutory business grounds:

·         Burden of additional costs

·         Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand

·         Inability to re-organise work among 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

·         Planned structural changes



Managers should provide evidence of how a particular business ground(s) prevents the request from being viable.  

 4. What if I have an 'informal' arrangement already in place? 

We recognise that some staff have 'informal' flexible working arrangements agreed with their manager, without recourse to a formal application. In particular, a large proportion of staff at the University are on task-based contracts (e.g. academic and academic related staff), which do not specify set working hours and allow considerable flexibility as to when and where work takes place.


The Flexible Working Guidelines and application process are not intended to over-ride or replace informal agreements, provided that the member of staff continues to meet the terms of their contract, i.e. that they meet their full working hours or (for task-based contracts) are still able to produce the same quantity and quality of work. For example, an academic member of staff on a task-based contract may leave work at 3pm to do the school run, but makes up the time in the evening and at weekends and continues to manage their workload to their manager’s satisfaction. 


If a flexible working arrangement involves reducing your working hours (or the proportion of the week that you work, if you are on a task-based contract), this should always be formally made under the Flexible Working Guidelines, as it will result in a change to your contract and salary.  For example reducing from a 100% to 60%, or from 5 to 3 days working days a week, and the subsequent reduction in salary. 


 5. Do some requests have priority over others? 

No. Staff can request flexible working for any reason (not only childcare or caring responsibilities). Managers should deal with requests in the order that they receive them. They should not give preferential treatment because they may think one reason is better than another. 

 6. Can I change back from part-time to full-time work? 

Normally when you agree a flexible working request the contractual change is permanent. There is no automatic right to revert back to a full-time working pattern. The funding for the days/hours you have dropped is also likely to have been reallocated.

However, in your application you can ask to work flexibly for a limited period of time and agree an end date to your temporary arrangement with your manager, after which you will revert back to your full-time working pattern.  

 7.  Do I have to adjust my flexible working to accommodate work?

It is good practice for managers and staff to agree in advance what will happen if there is an occasional need for the staff member to work during their 'flexible' time. For example, if a team away day or key meeting falls on a non-work day or outside of the staff member's contractual working hours. Provided that reasonable notice is given, staff would generally be expected to do their best to accommodate such requests where it is possible and reasonable to do so. This would be on the understanding that such requests are occasional and that managers in turn reciprocate the flexibility.