SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Human Resources at SOAS: Flexible Working Procedure

Contents 

  1. Summary
  2. Scope and Eligibility
  3. Principles
  4. Procedure
  5. Definitions
  6. Review
  7. Associated Policies and Procedures
  8. Associated Forms

1 Summary

1.1  Flexible working describes any type of working arrangement that gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where and when employees work.

1.2  The School (SOAS) recognises the importance of helping its employees balance their work and home life and is committed to considering and agreeing, wherever possible and practicable, requests for flexible working. 

1.3  All employees who have 26 weeks' continuous service have the right to request flexible working. The School will seriously consider flexible working requests by assessing employee and operational needs.

1.4  Eligible employees can request a number of different forms of flexible working for instance changing their hours, patterns or times of work, job-sharing, home-working, changes to working pattern such as annualised hours, compressed hours, flexi time, staggered hours, or term time working. Explanations of these forms of working are referenced at point 5 in the definitions section of this procedure.  

1.5  The School will only decline requests for flexible working arrangements where there is a good business reason and will provide a clear explanation of the rationale for refusal. Where it is not possible to accommodate the employee’s requested working pattern due to operational requirements or cost, an alternative pattern of work may be offered if possible.

 1.6  The whole process from formal application to the final decision, including appeal decisions where necessary, should be completed within 3 months.
 

2 Scope and eligibility


2.1  This procedure applies to all employees of the School who meet the relevant qualifying criteria set out below.  This includes employees who already work on a part-time or on a flexible basis.

2.2  To be eligible to make a flexible working application under this procedure, employees must meet all the following criteria:

  1. Have worked continuously for 26 weeks for the School (SOAS) at the date of their flexible working application;
  2. Have not made another application to work flexibly under this procedure with the School (SOAS) during the previous 12 months.

3 Principles

3.1  Duration of flexible working requests

3.1.1  If approved, flexible working arrangements will be confirmed on a permanent basis and the employee’s terms and conditions of employment will be changed permanently, unless a fixed-term period for the change is explicitly agreed e.g. to change their hours for a fixed period of time after returning to work from parental leave.

3.1.2 Managers and employees may agree to a trial period for the proposed arrangements to be tested by both parties, with a view to making the arrangements permanent if the trial proves successful. Managers should ensure that they monitor the effectiveness of the flexible working arrangement during the trial period. Following the trial period, both parties must agree that the trial has proved satisfactory, before the arrangements are made on a permanent basis.

3.1.3 Should an employee only require a change to their working hours or conditions for a short period of time, for instance to cope with a bereavement or to pursue a short course of study, s/he is advised to make an informal request for temporary change of hours as an employee may only make one formal request for a variation in contractual terms under this procedure in a 12 month period.

 
3.2 Role of trade union representative or colleague
 
3.2.1 Employees may wish to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or trade union representative to meetings under this procedure.

3.2.2 The role of the workplace colleague or trade union representative is to support the employee at the meeting. They can address the meeting or confer with the employee during the meeting.  The workplace colleague or trade union representative is not permitted to answer questions on behalf of the employee.
 
3.3  Confidentiality

3.3.1 When managing an employee's flexible working request, the organisation processes personal data collected in accordance with its data protection policy. Data collected from the point at which the organisation receives a flexible working request is held securely and accessed by, and disclosed to, individuals only for the purposes of managing his/her request for flexible working. Inappropriate access or disclosure of employee data constitutes a data breach and should be reported in accordance with the organisation's data protection policy immediately. It may also constitute a disciplinary offence, which will be dealt with under the organisation's disciplinary procedure.

3.3.2 When making a flexible working request, an employee should be aware that managers involved in the process may need to discuss and consult relevant colleagues on their application. This could include seeking advice from the School’s Human Resource Directorate, Health and Safety Adviser or asking team members if they are able to provide any additional cover which may be required by the flexible working arrangements, if agreed.
 
3.4 Human Resources Advice

3.4.1 Managers are responsible for ensuring that flexible working decisions are consistently applied in accordance with this procedure. They can obtain further advice, training and support on the operation of this procedure in the first instance from the Recruitment and Operations team.

3.5 Diversity & Inclusion

3.5.1 SOAS is committed to ensuring that protected characteristics are taken into consideration in the development and implementation of any policy, process or procedure, including decision making.

3.5.2 This policy has been developed in accordance with the terms of the SOAS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and the Equality Impact Assessment procedure. This will help ensure that the School meets its Public Sector Equality to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct that is prohibited by the Equality Act (2010)
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t
     

3.5.3 If you have any queries regarding this policy, or its application, please contact your HR Employee Relations Consultant or the Human Resources Equality Adviser.

4 Procedure

4.1 Making a flexible working application
 
4.1.1 Employees must submit their application using the School’s FWA form - Flexible Working Application form. This ensures all information has been taken into account for all parties.  Applications made without using the form will not be considered.  By fully completing the FWA form, employees will comply with the relevant statutory requirements for such written requests to work flexibly, in addition to providing the information the School requires to carefully consider their request.

4.1.2 Employees can obtain further information on completing the form from the Recruitment and Operations team or a trade union representative.

4.1.3 The employee should send the completed form to the appropriate line manager in their area, who will normally be the Head of Department or Professional Services Director. A copy of the form should also be sent to the Recruitment and Operations Team by emailing HR-Operations@soas.co.uk.

4.1.4 If the employee has not fully completed the form, they will be asked by their manager who received the form to complete it fully. The steps of the procedure and timescales outlined below will not commence until the employee has re-submitted their fully completed form.

4.1.5 Employees should submit their form in good time to allow sufficient time for their request to be fully considered and this procedure completed. In making their request, employees should bear in mind that it is possible that the School could take up to 3 months to consider their request.

4.1.6 Applications are more likely to succeed where the flexible working pattern requested is consistent with the needs of the service and fits well with the working patterns of other employees.  Requests that, if agreed, would incur unreasonable additional costs for the School, or create organisation difficulties, are less likely to succeed.

4.1.7 The application for flexible working must be in writing, in either paper or electronic form.  It must be dated and submitted to the employee’s line manager who must advise HR that a request has been received without delay. The application must:

  • Specify the change to working patterns/hours requested;
  • The date from which the employee would like the change to take effect;
  • The date of any previous applications;
  • Specify what effect, if any, the proposed changes they request will have on the School, other employees and students and how any such change might be dealt with.

Where the request is being made by a disabled person, or otherwise, as part of a request for a reasonable adjustment to his/her working arrangements, the employee should state this in the written application. In supporting the individual, we may seek additional advice from Occupational Health providers in such cases.
 
4.2 Invitation to attend a meeting
 
4.2.1 The manager (or delegate), who receives the FWA form does not need to hold a meeting with the employee unless they see the need to invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the flexible working request. The flexible working request can be approved without a meeting.  

4.2.2 If the manager decides to have a meeting. It should be held as soon as possible following the receipt of the FWA form to allow sufficient time for any appeal to be completed within the 3-month time period allowed.

4.2.3 The employee can be accompanied at the meeting by a workplace colleague or a trade union representative if they so wish.  Disabled employees may additionally request to be accompanied by their support worker (as appropriate) and in such cases, should notify the manager prior to the meeting so necessary arrangements can be made.   If the employee wishes to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or trade union representative, they must notify the manager in advance of the meeting. 

4.2.4 If the employee’s workplace colleague or trade union representative is unable to attend the proposed date for the meeting, the employee should endeavour to rearrange the meeting for a time convenient to themselves, their workplace colleague/trade union representative and their manager.  The rescheduled meeting should take place within five working days of the original proposed date for the meeting.  If this cannot be achieved, the employee should consider bringing an alternative colleague or trade union representative.
 
4.2.5 A representative from the HR Directorate will normally be present to give advice on flexible working, the interpretation of the Regulations and to ensure a consistent approach to all applications made within the School.  A written record will be made of the meeting.

4.2.6 The meeting should be arranged in an appropriate location, normally a confidential room or office.  Employees on maternity leave or adoption leave, or who normally work solely from home, and who are unable to visit the School premises, may wish to ask for the meeting to take place at an alternative location such as their home.  If a flexible working meeting takes place at an employee’s home, the manager will be accompanied by a member of the HR Directorate.

4.3 Meeting to discuss the flexible working request (where necessary)
 
4.3.1The meeting will normally be conducted by the employee’s line manager.

4.3.2 The employee should attend the meeting prepared to expand on any point they have raised within their application. Employees should also, as far as possible, be prepared to be flexible as they may be asked to consider other working patterns, an alternative start date or a trial period. 

4.3.3 The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the flexible working request including how this could be accommodated, what the impact will be on the section and colleagues, and any possible health and safety implications.

4.3.4 The manager and employee may wish to discuss whether a trial period could be useful and how the trial period may operate.

4.3.5 If the employee’s requested working pattern cannot be accommodated, the meeting also gives the opportunity to explore alternative flexible working options with the employee.

4.3.6 The manager does not need to reach a decision to approve the flexible working pattern at the meeting and, in some cases; it may not be possible to reach a decision immediately (for example, if additional information or measures such as a home working risk assessment are required). The employee should be notified of the manager’s decision in writing as soon as possible bearing in mind the 3-month time limit.

4.4 Written notification of the decision
 
4.4.1 The manager should notify the employee of their decision of the flexible working meeting. Where this is a refusal, the manager should ensure they have noted the reasons for the refusal and given the employee the opportunity to appeal the decision. A copy of the decision should be sent to the Recruitment and Operations Team by the manager.

4.4.2 Managers should refer to the Management Guidelines on Flexible Working when writing their decision and can seek further advice from their designated HR Representative.

4.5 Accepting a flexible working request
 
4.5.1 If a manager accepts an employee’s flexible working request they should indicate this clearly on the appropriate section of FWA form and, if necessary, complete a Variation of Contract form, obtaining the necessary authorisation for any contractual change.
 
4.5.2 The manager, working with the employee, will need to ensure that any health and safety aspects of the new arrangements are dealt with. This could include conducting a risk assessment if the employee will be working from home or the new work pattern involves lone working.  Advice on this can be obtained from the School’s Health and Safety Officer.

4.6 Declining a flexible working request
 
4.6.1 A manager can only decline a flexible working application for one (or more) of the following organisational reasons:

4.6.2

  1. The burden of additional costs would be unacceptable to the organisation;
  2. There is likely to be a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer/student/staff demand
  3. It is not possible to reorganise work among existing staff
  4. Inability to recruit additional staff
  5. There would be a detrimental impact on quality
  6. There would be a detrimental impact on performance
  7. There would be insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  8. There are planned structural changes

4.6.3 If the manager is unable to accept the flexible working request exactly as the employee requested but is able to accommodate an alternate form of flexible working which was discussed at the meeting (see 4.3.5 above), this should be indicated on form.  If the employee wishes to accept this alternative arrangement, they should confirm this in writing to the manager and the HR Directorate.  The stages outlined from 4.5.1 – 4.5.2 above should then be followed.

4.7 Written notification of Appeal
 
4.7.1 If a manager declines a flexible working application, the employee has the right to appeal against this decision.

4.7.2 An employee, who wishes to appeal, should send their appeal to the Human Resources Directorate.

4.7.3 The employee should state the grounds for their appeal (e.g. procedural, new information not raised at the Flexible Working Meeting or a challenge to the facts in the explanation of the organisational reason for the rejection of the request).

4.7.4 The employee should also list a number of dates and times when they and their colleague/representative (if applicable) will be available to attend an appeal meeting.

4.8 Invitation to an Appeal meeting

4.8.1 Following receipt of the appeal, the Human Resources Directorate will appoint an appropriate manager to hear the appeal (the Appeal Officer). This will normally be the Pro-Director /Head of IFECLS or Director of Professional Services (unless delegated) or the line manager of the individual who made the decision to reject the flexible working application and conducted the flexible working meeting. 

4.8.2 The Human Resources Directorate will invite the employee to an appeal meeting.

4.8.3 The meeting must be held within 14 days of the receipt of the appeal. If the meeting cannot be held within this period, the employee must agree in writing to an extension of this period.  The School will endeavour to arrange the meeting for one of the dates indicated by the employee, subject to the availability of other parties.

4.8.4 The employee has the right to be accompanied at the appeal meeting by a workplace colleague or a trade union representative. Disabled employees may additionally request to be accompanied by their support worker if appropriate. If the employee wishes to be accompanied by a workplace colleague, trade union representative and/or support worker, they must notify the Human Resources Directorate in advance of the meeting.

4.8.5 If the employee’s workplace colleague or trade union representative is unable to attend on the proposed date of the appeal meeting, the employee should endeavour to rearrange the meeting at a time convenient to themselves, their workplace colleague/representative and the Appeal Officer. The rescheduled meeting should take place within seven days of the original proposed date of the meeting. If this cannot be achieved, the employee should consider bringing an alternative workplace colleague or trade union representative.

4.8.6 A representative from the HR Directorate will normally be in attendance at the appeal meeting to advise the Appeal Officer on this procedure and help facilitate the appeal.

4.8.7 The appeal meeting should be arranged at an appropriate location, normally a confidential room or office.  Employees on maternity leave or adoption leave, or who normally work solely from home, who are unable to visit the School premises, may wish to ask for the appeal to take place at an alternative location such as their home.  If an appeal meeting takes place at an employee’s home, the Appeal Officer will be accompanied by a member of the HR Directorate.
 
4.9 Appeal meeting
 
4.9.1 The purpose of the appeal meeting will be to consider fully the employee’s grounds for appeal and to see if their flexible working application can be accepted in the light of these reasons.
 
4.9.2 The manager, who made the decision to reject the flexible working request, may be invited to attend the appeal meeting to respond to any of the reasons for the appeal, provide additional information and/or to answer any questions that the employee or Appeal Officer may have.  They will have no decision-making role in this stage of the process and the decision to either uphold or reject the appeal will be taken by the Appeal Officer. 

4.9.3 The Appeal Officer will ensure a record is kept of the appeal meeting and a copy of this will be given to the employee.

4.9.5 The Appeal Officer does not need to reach a decision at the meeting and in some cases; it may not be possible to reach a decision (for example, if additional information or measures such as a home working risk assessment are required).  The employee will be notified of the Appeal Officer’s decision in writing within 14 days in accordance with the steps laid out  in section 4.10.
 
4.10 Failure to attend an Appeal meeting
 
4.10.1 An employee who fails to attend the appeal meeting without prior notification should contact the Human Resources Directorate as soon as possible to explain why they were unable to attend the meeting.

4.10.2 Where an employee has provided a reasonable explanation for failing to attend the appeal meeting, the Human Resources Directorate should rearrange the meeting at the next mutually convenient time.  If the rescheduled meeting cannot be held within 14 days of the receipt of the appeal, the employee and Appeal Officer should agree in writing to extend this timescale to enable the meeting to take place.

4.10.3 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application form as withdrawn if the employee fails to attend an appeal meeting more than once and does not provide a reasonable explanation for their failure to attend.

4.11 Written notification of Appeal decision
 
4.11.1 The Appeal Officer should notify the employee of their decision within 14 days of the Appeal meeting. A copy of the decision should be sent to the HR Directorate.

4.11.2 Appeal Officers should refer to the Management Guidelines on Flexible Working when writing their decision and can seek further advice from their designated HR Business Partner or Employee Relations Consultant.

4.12 Upholding an appeal
 
4.12.1 If the Appeal Officer upholds the employee’s appeal, they should send their decisions to the individual highlighting the start date for the new flexible working arrangements and outlining the new working pattern.  If a trial period has been agreed, this also should be outlined.

4.12.2 The Appeal Officer will send a copy of the decision to the manager who conducted the Flexible Working meeting and ask them to implement the flexible working arrangements by following steps 4.5.2 to 4.5.3 above. In some cases, the manager will also need to complete a Variation of Contract form and obtain authorisation for any contractual changes (as appropriate).

4.13 Dismissing an appeal
 
4.13.1 If the Appeal Officer dismisses the employee’s appeal, they should clearly indicate this in the decision letter, stating the reasons for their decision and clearly explaining why these reasons for refusal apply in the circumstances.

4.14 Withdrawing a flexible working application
 
4.14.1 An employee who wishes to withdraw their flexible working application should do so in writing as soon as possible to their manager in the first instance, and to the Human Resources Directorate if this has already been processed by their manager. 

4.14.2 In such cases, the employee will not be eligible to make another application for 12 months from the date of their original application.

4.14.3 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application as withdrawn if the employee unreasonably refuses to provide the School with required information. For example, if an employee requests home-working, the School will need to ensure their home work-station meets health and safety standards.  If the employee refuses to comply with the risk assessment, the School will treat the employee’s application as withdrawn.

4.14.4 The School reserves the right to treat an employee’s flexible working application as withdrawn if the individual fails to attend two flexible working or appeal meetings without a reasonable explanation.
 
4.15 Grievance Procedure
 
4.15.1 Employees not satisfied with the outcome of an appeal are entitled to use the appropriate Grievance Procedure (e.g. if procedural errors occurred or where new information has come to light following the appeal).


5 Definitions

General definitions used in this document:

Area: the term area means the relevant Academic or Service Department.
 
Service Area: administrative department such as the Library, Finance or Information Technology.
 
Line manager: the line manager will be the individual nominated by the Pro-Director/Director to have supervisory responsibility over the employee.
 
Manager of Service Section: a manager of a team or section which forms part of a service area. The manager will normally report to the Head of Service Area.
 
Director of Professional Service Area: e.g. Director of Finance & Planning, Director of Human Resources.
 
Flexible working: a pattern or method of working which varies from the standard working arrangements at the School (e.g. 35 hours worked each week between Monday to Friday between 8.00am and 6.00pm) or from the employee’s existing working arrangements.
 
Business reason: a statutory term meaning good operational or organisational reasons. Requests to work flexibly can only be turned down for one (or more) of a number of recognised business grounds that are listed in this Procedure above.  Applications cannot be rejected for any other reasons than these recognised business grounds.
 
 Flexible working definitions:
 
Part time: working covers any arrangement where the employee is contracted to work anything less than typical full time hours for the type of work in question.

Annualised hours: is the organisation of working time based on the number of hours to be worked per year rather than per week. It is normally used to fit within peaks and troughs of work. Pay may vary monthly depending on the actual hours worked or special arrangements made for regular monthly pay but with specific terms for leaving employment.
 
Compressed hours: is a method of organising working time by working the total number of agreed hours over a shorter period.  For example, an employee could work for 35 hours over a four day week (rather than the standard 5 day working week). The employee would be paid for a full-time job but would not receive overtime payments for the agreed extra hours they work in one day.
 
Flexi-time: is a method of flexible working which allows employees to choose their start and finish times, outside of agreed core times. Normally, employees will work and be paid for a set number of hours and any hours worked above these hours (flexi-time) will be taken as time off in lieu (flexi-day) but sometimes employees can be paid for the actual hours they work.
 
Home-working: working from home rather than on SOAS premises, either on a full-time or part-time basis.
 
Job-sharing: normally involves two people employed on a part-time basis, but working together to cover one full-time post. Both employees will be paid according to the hours they work and special arrangements may be applied to annual leave.
 
Term-time only working: a method of working where an employee will work (either full or part-time) during the School terms and take annual leave and unpaid leave during the School vacation periods.
 
Staggered hours: allows employees to start and finish their day at different times and is sometimes used to extend core office hours or provide extra cover for busy periods.

6 Review

6.1 Reports on part-time staff and equal opportunities monitoring information will be made to the School’s Equality & Diversity Committee.

6.2 To ensure consistency and compliance with this Procedure, advice and guidance should be sought from the designated HR Representative for the Directorate who will also normally attend the meetings at the stages outlined above, as appropriate. 

6.3 This Policy will be reviewed regularly in line with any changes in employment legislation.

It will be the responsibility of the Human Resources Directorate to monitor the effectiveness of this policy by:

  • Assessing the nature and frequency of complaints or cases and identifying any patterns which need to be addressed
  • Monitoring individual complaints or cases to ensure that they are effectively resolved
  • Monitor annually through the Equality & Diversity staff report the take up of the scheme. 

7 Associated Policies and Procedures

7.1 Grievance Procedures
 
7.2 Maternity leave policy

7.3 Adoption Leave Policy

7.4 Shared Parentail Leave policy

7.5 Occupational Health Referral Service
 

8 Associated forms

8.1 Flexible Working Application and Decision form (FWA form)

8.2 Flexible Retirement Request Form for USS members aged over 55 (FlexRet form)