Procedure

Staff wanting to request a change to their existing working pattern should read this policy and discuss their proposal with their immediate supervisor before applying, using the FLEXAF form if a permanent change is requested or by letter/email if temporary. They should provide full details, e.g. proposed pattern of work and how their duties would be covered and any other flexibility they have. A meeting will be arranged with their Head of Institution to discuss their request, accompanied by a colleague or union representative if they wish. The Head of Institution will assess the request, taking into account operational requirements and the nature of the person's job, and write to the member of staff giving their decision.

Before making an application to work flexibly that will result in working fewer hours the member of staff should carefully consider the effect on her/his pay, pension contributions, and benefits since they will also be reduced on a pro rata basis. The employee may wish to seek advice from the Pensions Office about the implications for their pension (See details on sabbatical leave provision for University Teaching Officers working less than full-time).

Further guidance on flexible working is available from the relevant HR Business Manager or HR Adviser.

Reasons for request

It is acknowledged that an application to work flexibly may arise due to a wide range of different circumstances, the most common being to accommodate domestic/caring responsibilities, for health reasons (as recognised in the University's disability and employment and stress policies) or to reduce work commitments progressively in the period leading up to retirement, provided this is of benefit to the institution.

A request from a University Teaching Officer must accord well with the spirit of an academic community. When assessing such an application, the Head of institution should weigh up the potential disadvantages in terms of the impact on the officer's commitment and loyalty, which must remain primarily with the University, with the benefits to the officer of balancing professional commitments with domestic and caring responsibilities. Similarly consideration must be given to the advantages and disadvantages to the institution and the officer of allowing her/him to combine University work with relevant external part-time employment in an area where there are strong professional links; such an arrangement must be clearly in the interests of the department and not being made to diversify the employment or remunerative opportunities of the officer. However, any request to work part time will be fully considered on its merits in accordance with the process laid down in this policy.

Making an application

The employee should apply in writing to the Head of institution, specifying the working pattern being requested, whether this is intended to be a temporary (with approximate timescale) or a permanent change and the reasons for the application. The Flexible Working Regulations require that they also provide information on how their work could be covered if the proposed working pattern was implemented.

If the employee is applying to work flexibly on a permanent basis or exercising their right to applying to work flexibly under the Flexible Working Regulations, they should read the notes of guidance and apply using the FLEXAF form available from the Human Resources Division website. If the employee is applying to work flexibly on a temporary basis, they should put there request in writing via letter/email.

Assessment criteria

The key assessment criteria that will be reviewed by the Head of institution for the request must be fulfilled in order for the department/institution to give their support and for the competent authority to approve a request to work flexibly are as follows:

  • The new working pattern should meet the needs of the institution concerned, for example in terms of recruitment, retention, efficiency.
  • Adequate replacement cover could be provided or alternative work arrangements could be made if the new working pattern were implemented.
  • There would be no unapproved additional cost of the new working arrangements on University central funds.

All applications will be carefully considered, taking into account operational requirements and the nature of the member of staff's post when deciding whether the proposed arrangements can be accommodated within the institution concerned. The Head of institution should also take into account equal opportunity considerations, in particular the law relating to sex discrimination, when assessing the merits of an application.

Factors to be taken into consideration

The Head of institution will review the request, focusing on the job, the duties to be carried out, the hours to be covered, and how these can be accommodated. In making an objective decision on whether the option proposed would be feasible, he/she will take into account a range of factors such as the different elements of the job, the size of the workload, the need for continuity, any specialist skills required. He/she will take into account wider effects of the proposal such as cost, staffing, service delivery, performance, and quality implications, as well the impact of the new working arrangement on other staff and on any structural changes planned in the department.

Process of consideration

Before making an application, the member of staff may find it helpful to have a preliminary discussion with the Head of institution to review:

  • whether the working pattern proposed would be feasible and if so whether it would be in the interests of the institution
  • whether the member of staff would be requesting a temporary or permanent change and whether this could be accommodated within the institution

At this stage the Head of institution may be able to agree to the request straightaway, in which case a letter of approval is sent to the member of staff. However, if more detailed consideration or consultation is needed (for example, Faculty Board support is needed for requests from officers before formal approval can be given); a formal request should be made (see paragraph c. below).

Before the Head of institution gives her/his approval to a new working pattern involving reduced hours, agreement should be reached on either a reduced quantity of work, or the removal from the job description/role profile of certain discrete elements of the post in order to ensure it can be effectively performed part-time. For staff holding academic appointments any part-time arrangements should ensure that the officer makes a proportionate part-time contribution in all aspects of the officer's duties.

Formal requests should be made and considered using the following procedure:

  1. The member of staff applies in writing to the Head of institution or relevant authority specifying whether a request for a permanent (in which case an application under the Flexible Working Regulations may be appropriate if the member of staff has more than six months' service and wishes to work flexibly to care for a child — see notes of guidance, or temporary flexible arrangement is being made and giving full details, including the proposed duration if temporary (which by mutual agreement should not be for less than three months duration or for more than five years), the proposed working pattern, and suggestions on how the full duties could be accommodated if the application was accepted.

  2. The Head of institution and member of staff meet to discuss the application and to review how it could be accommodated within the institution's working arrangements, patterns, and practices. The Head of institution should consider the application and may need to review the matter with the member of staff's supervisor or team members or consult within the institution before reaching a decision.

  3. The Head of institution then decides according to the assessment criteria and factors set out above and gives a written response. If he/she is able to support the request he/she notifies the member of staff and subsequently writes a letter of support giving full details of the proposed working arrangements, timeframe, and timetable. The papers are then passed to the Human Resources Division (for officers in Faculties, via the appropriate Faculty Board) for approval. If the application would not be feasible, alternative workable arrangements should be discussed (see outcomes below). If the application is rejected, the Head of institution informs the member of staff why and follows this up in writing, providing a copy of the papers to the Human Resources Division for the member of staff's file. The letter also includes details on how to appeal against the decision.

  4. If the Head of institution (and Faculty Board as appropriate) supports the request, the application is considered and approved on behalf of the competent authority. For officers, this would involve granting leave under Special Ordinance C(i) 2(c) and any stipend savings would be credited to the institution.

  5. A letter of approval is sent to the member of staff, either for a permanent change or for an arrangement of a limited duration specifying the initial review period. Notification of amendments to the contractual terms and conditions including pay is given. If a permanent change is approved then formal notification will be issued via the Human Resources Division in addition to the approval letter from the Head of Institution. If a temporary change is approved then the necessary contractual changes will be made but no further notification will be sent by the Human Resources Division.

Outcomes

If the original working pattern outlined in the application would not be feasible, the Head of institution should discuss and review alternative workable arrangements at the meeting with the member of staff before taking a decision to reject the proposal. The member of staff for her/his part should endeavour not to be too prescriptive in her/his request for a revised working pattern as a willingness to be flexible will increase the chances of the department being in a position to agree to accommodate the request. If the application is rejected, the Head of institution will write to the member of staff, giving the operational reasons for the refusal and providing details of the right to appeal against the decision. (Under the Flexible Working Regulations, the range of acceptable business reasons for rejecting an application is specified — see notes of guidance).

Trial Periods

In the event that it is unclear whether a flexible working arrangement in a particular post would be a workable option, the Head of institution may agree to a trial period, which should usually be for not longer than three months, during which the duties of the post will be carried out under the proposed flexible arrangements. Where this is agreed, the nature of the arrangement will be set out in writing, the member of staff's hours will be varied for the stated temporary period only, and this will not be interpreted as a contractual agreement giving the member of staff the right to work flexibly on a permanent basis. The advantage of such an arrangement is that it gives the member of staff an opportunity to demonstrate how part-time working can be made to work satisfactorily and the Head of institution an opportunity to review objectively and factually the degree of success of the proposed flexible arrangement. Any tangible problems that arise can then be addressed in a practical way with a view to finding solutions that are acceptable to all. If, however, the changed working arrangement does lead to significant problems, the supervisor/manager will be able to give reasons why it could not be a longer-term option. He/she should meet with the member of staff towards the end of the trial period and confirm his/her decision in writing, together with any contractual changes. If he/she considers that the trial has not been successful, the job will revert to its previous status and the member of staff will be expected to resume the previous contractual working arrangement.

Appeal Process

A member of staff who is dissatisfied with the decision made in respect of her/his application may appeal against this decision within 14 days of being notified of the employer's decision under the relevant appeal procedure for his/her staff type.

Review of application for extension

The probationary arrangements for staff who take up their appointment on flexible working patterns, for example on a part-time basis, will be the same as comparable full-time employees.

For staff that complete their probationary appointment in a full-time capacity and then subsequently take up a flexible working arrangement of limited duration there should be a review of the arrangements should an extension be requested.

The application for an extension and a letter of support from the Head of institution (via the appropriate Faculty Board for approval as appropriate) should be sent through the Human Resources Division to the competent authority for approval, specifying the duration of the extended arrangements and any changes to the original application for flexible working.

Any extension should be for no longer than five years. In most cases any approval to an application to work flexibly for a limited period of time will be in order to help a member of staff to balance commitments outside work on a temporary basis. However, if the Head of institution proposes to limit the duration of a flexible working arrangement, he/she should ensure that he/she is able to provide objective justification for this decision, in accordance with the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, implemented in October 2002.