Flexible Working Policy

  1. Introduction
  2. Statutory provisions
  3. Job share
  4. Flexible working hours
  5. Part-time working
  6. Term time or seasonal working
  7. Annual hours working
  8. Compressed hours
  9. Working from home
  10. Time for training 
  11. Parental leave
  12. Career break
  13. Procedure for making and considering flexible working / time for training requests
  14. Appeal procedure

Form: Flexible working application (Word 36 kb)

Form: Time for training application (Word 100 kb)


1. Introduction

'Flexibility' and 'flexible work' are terms used to describe a wide range of work styles and employment practices. Broadly speaking, they include all kinds of employment which differ from the traditional nine to five full-time job. Getting the work-life balance right is increasingly becoming high on the agenda for many colleagues who have personal responsibilities and interests outside of work. Research shows that more people now want increased flexibility over other benefits. As a result, flexibility in the way that colleagues undertake work can have a real and positive impact on the performance of individuals and teams.

The 'flexible' aspect of work can in different instances relate to the employee, or to the employer, or to both. From the employee’s point of view, flexible work may allow more freedom to organise their employment to fit in with other parts of their life. For the employer, flexibility may come with the ability to organise people resources more in line with the varying needs of 'customers', or with peaks and troughs of demand. Flexibility can have a positive impact for all.

The University of Bristol recognises that flexible working can provide benefits to both the employer and the employee. As part of continuing to develop a Positive Working Environment, the University is committed to enabling staff to achieve an appropriate work life balance. This policy applies to all staff, regardless of length of service, grade, or personal circumstances.

There are a number of reasons why managers should consider moving away from traditional patterns of work, and offering flexibility in work patterns:

There are a great deal of flexible working practices within the University. This document brings these practices together and describes the various strategies which managers might adopt to meet the needs of both the University and the individual.

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2. Statutory provisions

All employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment have a statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement. Employers have a statutory duty to consider a request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for flexible working where there is a clear business reason for doing so.

Managers should contact their HR Manager for advice and guidance before implementing this policy and procedure.

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3. Job share

All University posts are open to consideration under job share arrangements. 

Job sharing is defined as the division of one full-time post between two or more people, with each sharer undertaking a proportion of the duties of the post and receiving proportionate pay and benefits. Job sharing is different from job splitting, which occurs when a job is split into two separate part-time jobs requiring very little interaction. Job sharing requires a high level of co-operation and communication between the sharers.

Any manager who receives a request from a member of staff to job share must seriously consider it, and  Human Resources must be consulted before any decision is taken. If the request is approved in principle, the University will advertise for a fellow job sharer in the normal way. If no suitable partner can be found after at least two recruitment attempts, the request will be denied. Job share should also be considered when recruiting to any vacancy. All our adverts will make reference to job sharing.

Prospective job sharers will be interviewed in accordance with normal University practice and every opportunity should be given for prospective job sharers to meet and jointly recommend to the manager how the arrangement will operate, within the parameters set by that Department.

Where one of the job share partners resigns, the remaining partner will be involved in the recruitment and selection process in order to ensure compatibility (eg in respect of working methods, communications, etc). The post will be advertised in the normal way. If no suitable partner can be found for an existing job share employee after at least two recruitment attempts, then the existing employee will be offered the post at the total contracted hours. If neither of these alternatives is possible or acceptable, then the University reserves the right to terminate the remaining job sharer's contract after discussion with the employee, at which the employee may be accompanied by a trade union representative or friend.

Circumstances where job share arrangements may be particularly suitable include:

Experience elsewhere has shown that job share arrangements can provide many advantages for managers and employees, including for managers:

and for employees:

To ensure the success of any job share, it is essential that it is appropriately managed, and before the job share arrangement commences managers will need to consider such issues as:

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4. Flexible working hours

Flexibility of working hours (whether full- or part-time) can assist recruitment, reduce absenteeism and improve morale, while tailoring working hours around workload requirements. Flexible working hours can be especially advantageous for those with caring responsibilities, or those who have to commute long distances. 

It is true to say that a great deal of flexibility exists on working hours across the University, and the University wishes to support and encourage such an approach. However, it is important that whether your Department operates a formal or an informal system, the following considerations are taken into account:

Further advice is available from your HR Manager.

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5. Part-time working

The University makes a great deal of use of part time working. When recruiting to a post, it is essential that managers consider the number of hours of work required and when they could most effectively be worked. Part-time hours can accommodate peaks of workload, whether they occur on a daily basis (ie heavier workload requirements in the afternoons, mornings, or over midday), or over the week (ie heavier workload requirements towards the start, middle or end of the week). You will also need to consider, and make clear to the member of staff, the degree of flexibility you might require around the work pattern.

As is the case with job sharing, any requests from staff to move to part-time hours must be seriously considered and any effects upon operational requirements considered carefully.

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6. Term time or seasonal working

Term time contracts are likely to be extremely attractive to those with responsibility for caring for school age children. It may also be appropriate to offer this option where the needs of the service fit around the academic cycle.

The member of staff is engaged to undertake the required number of hours per week, over either the University or school term time. Salary and other terms and conditions of employment are pro rata.

Seasonal working is where the member of staff is engaged to work for less than 52 weeks per year, but the weeks that they do not work can fall at any time of the year (rather than necessarily during University or school vacations). For instance, there may be occasions during the academic year when workload is higher than during other times during the year, (for example, around the examinations period). Seasonal adjustments to time worked during this period may help.

It is important that members of staff engaged on a term time or seasonal basis are clear about their work pattern (ie whether half terms are included, etc).

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7. Annual hours working

Annual hours contracts can 'average' full- or part-time employment across the period of a calendar year.

Annual hours contracts specify the number of hours to be worked during the course of the year and, where this equates to less than full time, terms and conditions of employment are pro rata to those of full time staff. This flexible method of employment ensures that the individual works at those times most suited to the workload requirements.

While the increased flexibility can be beneficial to the employer and the employee, it should be recognised that too great a degree of uncertainty in relation to work pattern can be stressful and even impractical to potential employees, so patterns should be specified as far as possible.

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8. Compressed hours

Compressed hours may be useful for staff who wish to continue to work current total hours and retain current benefits but would prefer to compress the hours into a shorter working week or fortnight, thereby allowing some ‘free time’ during the normal working week. An example is a ‘nine-day fortnight’ with 10 days' worth of hours worked over nine slightly longer days, allowing one day off per fortnight. It is important that any compressed hours arrangement does not have an adverse impact on service provision or operational requirements and does not increase the workload of colleagues.

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9. Working from home

There may be certain roles which could adapt to working from home either on a regular basis or when a particular task needs completing (for example, writing a report), which could be undertaken more easily in a quieter home environment. In certain circumstances, a formal home working contract of employment would be issued. The following list of considerations is intended to assist managers considering such requests, either for ad hoc arrangements or for a formal home working contract:

Please contact your HR Manager to discuss any necessary arrangements in relation to contractual changes or the establishment of a home working post.

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10. Time for training

Staff may request time away from work to undertake various training or study. Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have a statutory right to request time for any form of training which they believe will improve their effectiveness in the organisation or the performance of the organisation. This may take the form of either accredited programmes leading to a qualification or unaccredited training to help them develop specific skills relevant to their job. There is a statutory procedure which employers must follow when considering such requests. This has been built into the University’s procedure, which is detailed below.

Although staff may request time to undertake training, there is no right to be paid for the time spent training where a request is agreed, nor is there any requirement for the costs of the training to be met by the University. Managers may consider meeting such requests where sufficient funds are available within the department’s budget and where it is deemed appropriate to do so. Alternatively, managers may agree to allow the member of staff to work flexibly to make up the time spent training, or they may allow the employee to temporarily reduce their hours of work to allow unpaid time off to train.

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11. Parental leave

There is a statutory entitlement of up to 18 weeks' unpaid leave for colleagues with children under five and who have at least one year’s continuous service. Leave may be taken in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks in any year. Such provisions are in addition to maternity and paternity leave. Please refer to the University's separate Parental Leave Policy.

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12. Career break

Colleagues that have been employed for at least 3 years are eligible to take a career break. Some examples in the past have been to undertake a period of study or further long-term development, caring responsibilities for an elderly relative, or to travel. Please refer to the University's separate Career Break Scheme.

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13. Procedure for making and considering flexible working/time for training requests

The following procedure is in line with the statutory procedure for requesting flexible working/time for training. The University recognises the benefit of flexible working to all employees and as such has opened this procedure to all staff.

Where a member of your staff wishes to request flexible working/time for training, the following procedure will apply: 

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14. Appeal procedure

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 Human Resources
June 2010