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You have the right to ask for flexible working

3 minute read


An employee with flexible working hours working from home

Flexible working in Belfast & Northern Ireland

For many employers and employees, the COVID-19 lockdowns showed that employee flexibility was a viable way to continue to operate. Flexible working offers increased productivity, reduced stress or burnout and promotes a healthy work-life balance. Many predict that employees will take this appetite for flexible working into the future and some recruitment experts are already reporting that top candidates are turning down offers that don’t include flexible working.

Did you know that employees have the legal right to ask their employer for flexible working? This right existed long before the pandemic. You can make a flexible working request if you’re an employee who has been with the company for more than 26 weeks and haven’t made a request in the last 12 months. You can ask for things such as remote working, flexible start/finish times, reduced hours and entering a job share with a colleague.

Northern Ireland employers must act fairly

Your employer must look at your request fairly and come to a decision within 3 months. Your employer can reject your request but can only do so for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs.
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff.
  • An inability to recruit additional staff.
  • A detrimental impact on quality.
  • A detrimental impact on performance.
  • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work.
  • A planned structural change to your business.

Your employer must not discipline you or treat you differently because of your flexible working request. If they were to do so, you might have a viable employment law claim.

Our employment law department can help

It’s important to know your workplace rights. As any solicitor in our employment law department could attest to, unfair practices are not all that uncommon in Northern Ireland’s workplaces. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly at work, we may be able to help. Visit our dedicated Employment Law page or contact us for a free and confidential initial consultation to learn more.


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