Employment

Can I request a four day working week?

As an increasing number of companies announce a reduction in working days, we explore your right to request flexible or compressed hours from your employer.

22 June 2022

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What’s a four day working week?

A four day working week is simply a shorter working week with no cut to pay. This is currently being trialled by a number of companies in the UK across a range of sectors.

The pilot scheme was announced in January 2022 and is being run by the 4 Day Week campaign, Autonomy, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

Across the six-month trial, researchers will be monitoring the effects of the shorter working week on productivity, employee wellbeing and gender equality, as well as any impact on the environment.

Can I request a four day work week?

Although it may be too late to be a part of the trial, you may be able to request a four day week as part of a flexible working hours arrangement.

If you’re an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous employment and haven’t made any other flexible working requests in the last 12 months, you have the right to request flexible working. This will allow you to request amendments to your working hours, flexi time, compressed working hours or part time working (including job share).

Employees that are also a carer, parent, or returning to work from maternity are also entitled to request flexible working hours and/or days.

If you’re considering how to ask for flexible working hours, your first step should be to check your company’s flexible working policy to inform your request.

How do I submit a flexible working request?

You’ll need to put your request in writing to your employer as a statutory application.

Your employer must then give reasonable consideration to your request for flexible working and must respond within three months (or longer with your agreement).

However, this doesn't mean they have to agree to your request. If they don’t agree, they’ll need to provide their reasons. If those reasons are inadequate or unfair, you may be able to take your case to an employment tribunal. In such instances, it’s always best to speak to an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible where they’ll be able to discuss your options and advise whether a claim is pursuable.

If I’m already working flexible hours, would a four day working week impact me?

It’s important to note the difference between reduced hours and compressed hours.

With compressed hours, you’re working the same number of hours that you would in a five day week, but compressed into four.

With reduced hours, you're working fewer hours over four days - so you're not doing the same number of hours as you would in a five day week.

However, the suggested four day working week works on a reduced hour basis with no detriment to pay. So, if you’re currently working compressed hours as part of a flexible working arrangement, or you’re working reduced hours and your pay has been adjusted to reflect this, a switch to a four day work week may suit your needs better.

What can I do if I have my flexible working request denied?

Your employer will need to provide a valid reason for denying your request and if you believe that it’s been refused unfairly, your employer should discuss the situation with you. It may be better to resolve your complaint using your employer’s internal procedures if possible, and you usually have one day less than three months from the day your request was denied to bring a complaint in the Employment Tribunal. It should also be noted that any delays within your company’s internal procedures do not usually affect this deadline.

If you’re still not satisfied with their reasoning for denying the request and the situation isn’t resolved following a conversation with your employer, you may be able to challenge this further. This will depend on several factors and each case is highly individual. For this reason, we recommend seeking employment law advice from an employment solicitor in the first instance to find out the strength of your case and what your next steps are.

If you bring a successful complaint in the Employment Tribunal, they then have the power to make an order that your employer reconsiders your statutory application and/or award you compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay.

If you’d like us to support you, we’re here to help. Our team are experts in all elements of employment law.

To book your initial consultation with a specialist, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

You can also find further information over on our employment law FAQ page.

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