Flexible Working Policy

Click here for guidance on how to make a Flexible Working Request in MyERP(If you do not have access to a computer and require a paper form, please contact your HR Employee Services Hub directly)

1. Introduction

'Flexibility' and 'flexible work' are terms used to describe a wide range of work styles and employment practices. Broadly speaking, they include any employment which differs 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, and many 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, the employer, or 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.

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

  • the increasing need to improve efficiency and contain costs;
  • the need to cover a working day that is increasingly outside the traditional nine to five in line with the demands of ‘customers’;
  • the changing academic cycle of a year;
  • the need to recruit and retain the highest quality staff by offering a flexible approach to work as a real employee benefit;
  • the need to promote equality of opportunity.

There is a range 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.

The University is committed to offering equality of opportunity to all employees and to increasing diversity in the workforce.  Actions to support this aim are detailed in the University Strategy, the Implementation Plan and the EDI Annual Report.  Specific actions to increase diversity and to support employees at work include offering flexible working opportunities which includes job-sharing, both when recruiting to a vacant post and when considering flexible working applications from employees. The Flexible Working Policy applies to all staff, regardless of length of service, grade, or personal circumstances.

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.

3. Job sharing

For any informal flexible working requirements during the blended working trial, please refer to the University’s Blended Working Policy.


3.1 Definition

A job share is a formal arrangement where two people voluntarily share the responsibilities of one post receiving proportionate pay and benefits. It is possible that the total hours worked in a job share post could equate to greater than one FTE.  The contract of employment is held jointly and is conditional upon the offer of appointment being accepted by both job share partners.   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.

Circumstances where job share arrangements may be particularly suitable include:

  • where job share presents an opportunity to retain the services of trained staff who due to personal circumstances might otherwise find continuation in employment difficult, particularly after a period of maternity leave or a career break;
  • where there is a need for flexible working to suit changing operational needs and the needs of the individual;
  • where there is a need to broaden the potential pool of applicants.

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

  • proven improvement in retention and attendance;
  • increased efficiency through greater flexibility, peak period coverage and continuity of attendance;
  • access to a wider range of skills and knowledge;
  • tapping into a wider employment pool;
  • enhanced levels of responsibility;

and for employees:

  • more opportunities for part-time work at levels commensurate with previous or current experience and salary;
  • easier return to work after maternity leave and career breaks;
  • improved work/life balance;
  • enabling people to work part-time and share child care with their partner;
  • providing work opportunities for certain categories of people who otherwise may not be able to work at all (eg single parents and those with health limitations or disabilities).

3.2 Eligibility

Job sharing can be introduced for any post unless there is a justifiable and objective reason which would make a job share unsuitable.  The Appropriate Manager will make decisions concerning requests for job share and will take account of the operational needs of the School or Division.  They should take appropriate advice from their HR team as an unjustifiable refusal to allow a job share may be viewed as discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. 

3.3 Job Share for Vacancies

When the recruiting manager completes the staffing request form, the assumption is that the post is suitable for job sharing arrangements, unless the manager specifies otherwise.  If job share is considered appropriate, this will be confirmed on the advertisement and further particulars for the post. 

The options for recruiting to a vacancy on a job share basis are:

  • Two or more applicants who wish to work on a job share or part time basis are short listed and two meet the criteria for appointment.
  • One person is appointed on a job share basis subject to a suitable second job share person being recruited.  If no suitable partner can be found either for a new or for an existing job share employee after at least two recruitment attempts, then the University reserves the right to terminate the remaining job sharer's contract after discussion with the employee. If the second job share part of the post cannot be recruited to, the offer to the first successful applicant can be withdrawn.
  • The recruiting manager appoints to the post on a part time basis and allocates part of the duties to another employee or recruits to a second part time post (but consideration must be given to the grading of each post). 

3.4 Applications from Existing Employees to Job Share a Post

All employees have the right to request a job-share arrangement in their job. The University will support job sharing where it is reasonable and practicable to do so and where the operational requirements of the University, School or Division will not be adversely affected.

Applications must be made and responded to in line with Section 13 of the Flexible Working Policy (“procedure for making and considering flexible working requests”), below. The application must detail the proposal for job share, the possible impact on the work they perform and whether they have identified a job share partner and, if so, the contact details of the proposed job share partner.

It is a statutory requirement that the employer must decide upon any formal request within three months of receipt, including any appeals, unless an extension to this timescale is agreed with the individual member of staff.

3.5 Job Share Arrangements

When considering requests for job share the following factors will be considered:

  • The distribution of hours and duties.
  • The hours of the job share post should be agreed prior to the commencement of the job share and are at the discretion of the Head of School/Division to ensure that the operational needs of the area are met.
  • The hours of work of the post will normally be divided equally between the two sharers and, within this general principle, the hours worked by the sharers may be allocated in several ways depending on the needs of the School/Department.
  • Work Patterns can include:
    • Split days – Mornings or afternoons
    • Split weeks – 2.5 consecutive days each week.
    • Alternating split weeks – 2/3 days on alternate weeks
    • Alternate weeks
  • Ideally, the hours should be split equally however it may be appropriate for the job sharers to split the hours on an unequal basis, i.e. one sharer working 2 days per week and the other 3 days per week.
  • The actual hours worked by the job sharers should reflect the flexibility required by the corresponding full-time post, i.e. if weekend or evening work is required, the job sharers will be expected to work flexibly to provide cover.

The job share partners will have one common job description and each partner must be prepared to undertake the full range of duties.

The line manager, in consultation with the job share partners, will determine the actual distribution of the duties and this may be done on the basis of allocation of duties or completely shared duties, or a combination of both these approaches.

Jobs can be shared in a number of different ways i.e. according to tasks, projects, student related activity, client/service base. Alternately, the job share partners can deal with duties as they occur when they are working.

3.5 Terms and Conditions of Employment

The contract of employment is held jointly and is conditional upon the offer of employment being accepted by both the job share partners.

  • Pay will be pro-rata to the hours worked.
  • Job sharers will be on the same grade in line with the University’s grading structure, however, individual placement within the grade scale may differ, depending on qualifications and experience.
  • Annual leave will be pro rata to the number of hours worked.
  • Public, statutory and University closure days will be pro-rata to the number of hours worked.

The University will provide the same access to training and development opportunities as full-time staff. Development opportunities are available on the Staff Development web site

3.7 Communication

Good communication between job sharers is essential to ensure continuity of work.  The job share partners have primary responsibility for ensuring effective communication and continuity.  An overlap/hand-over period is recommended although not compulsory.  If the budget is available, appointing to a job share post on a greater than 1.0 FTE basis to allow for handover time each week is strongly encouraged. 

Appointment can also be made on a 1.0 FTE basis but the two job share partners cover less than 35 hours a week and allowance is made for a weekly handover period.

The most appropriate methods of communication including the possible need for an overlap period should be discussed and agreed before the job share commences.

Consideration should be given to the requirement for each job sharer to attend School/Divisional meetings.  It may be possible for one job sharer to attend and pass on details of the meeting.  However, on occasions, it may be necessary for both job sharers to be present and the working pattern will have to be varied to accommodate this.

3.8 Cover for Absence

Where one job share partner is absent the other partner may be asked to work on a full-time basis for a temporary period.  The job share partner is under no obligation to cover the vacant hours.

3.9 When One Job Share Partner Leaves

In the event of one job sharer leaving, the remaining partner will be offered the post on a full-time basis. If this is unacceptable, efforts will be made to recruit a new partner following the normal recruitment procedure. 

If after two attempts of advertising the post a new partner cannot be found and a review of the operational needs of the School/Division show that full-time cover for the post continues to be needed, recruitment for a full-timer will be initiated.

The University will endeavour to find the remaining job sharer suitable alternative employment through the redeployment process.

If it is not possible to find a replacement job share partner or to find the remaining partner a suitable alternative post, it may be necessary to terminate the contract of employment using Ordinance 30 (Some Other Substantial Reason).  The remaining job share partner will be fully consulted throughout this process and termination of the contract of employment will be a last resort option.

3.10 Review

The University reserves the right to review the job-sharing arrangement if, for example, there is a change in the operational requirements of the School/Division or the job share arrangement is not meeting the needs of the area. Any review will be carried out in consultation with the job share partners and in conjunction with HR.

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. 

A great deal of flexibility exists on working hours across the University, and the University wishes to support and encourage such an approach where possible. Some arrangements, such as changes to start and finish times, can often be negotiated locally without the requirement for a formal flexible working request. However, individuals still have the statutory right to submit a formal application if they wish. Whether your Department operates a formal or an informal system, it is important that the following considerations are taken into account:

  • The needs of the Department will vary over time. Ensure that any scheme you introduce is appropriate to the current situation and includes a mechanism for review.
  • Ensure that staff are aware that flexibility is dependent upon the operational needs of the Department.
  • Ensure that staff are aware of how much flexibility is available and where any lines are drawn.
  • if some staff are offered more flexibility than others, ensure that this is justifiable. Explain clearly the reasons and consider the impact of flexibility on colleagues.
  • Decide whether any records are to be kept (in many cases this is advised to ensure consistency). Designate someone for this purpose and ensure that all staff know what information is required by whom.
  • Consider what arrangements will operate for instances of sickness, holidays, overtime, etc.
  • Consider how you might be equipped to deal with abuses of the flexible working hours system.

Further advice is available from your HR Manager.

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.

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, but note that there are specific arrangements for term time staff in relation to annual leave, see Paragraph 4.5 of the Particular terms and conditions of employment for staff on grades A-I.

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, the terms for annual leave (see above), etc).

See also: Term-Time and Seasonal Working - Managers Guidance (PDF, 152kB)FTE Calculator for Term Time or Seasonal Working Patterns (Office document, 22kB)

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.

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. Consideration needs to be given to the suitability of such an arrangement where the member of staff does not have a fixed work attendance pattern and where there is already a degree of flexibility implied.

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:

  • needs of the service both generally and specifically on days in question;
  • nature of work for which employed;
  • practicalities of undertaking specific elements of work or tasks at home (ie availability of appropriate workstation, IT, information, etc).
  • impact on those remaining in the workplace and on students;
  • degree to which this is a regular or formalised element of work pattern;
  • any local arrangements for requirement of notification for ad-hoc homeworking;
  • health and safety: Safety and Health Services have produced guidance on working from home which can be found at https://www.bristol.ac.uk/safety/media/gn/homeworking-gn.pdf 
  • the costs of equipment (ie computers, telephone, data link rentals, etc.);
  • security and data protection (see the University Policy on Data Protection);
  • notification of sickness absence;
  • insurance for University equipment and information;
  • control of work.

As well as being safe and secure, homeworking space should be free of distractions. Homeworking is not a substitute for suitable care arrangements and dependents should always be looked after by someone other than the employee during working hours.

Where a formal home-working arrangement is agreed, the following terms will apply:

Trial Periods

New home working arrangements shall normally be for a trial period, during which the arrangement will be monitored.  If, at any time during or at the end of the trial period, the University considers the home working arrangements to be unsatisfactory or the requirements of the work change such that home-based work is no longer appropriate, the University may give reasonable notice to revert to a workplace-based arrangement from the University’s premises

Health and Safety

Carrying out computer or paper-based work at home is generally low risk, however there are some areas to consider such as display screen equipment and the work environment. Futher information can be obtained from the home working guidance produced by Safety and Health Services (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/safety/media/gn/homeworking-gn.pdf).

Equipment and Insurance:

Insurance cover for any University’s equipment installed at home will be provided by the University.    Details of the University insurance cover can be found on the Secretary’s Office web pages.   Employees should not carry out, cause or permit any act or omission which will invalidate the insurance policy covering University property.  Employees are responsible for any damage to the University Property which goes beyond ordinary wear and tear and are required to report to the University any such damage or malfunction as soon as you become aware of it.

Employees should also check with their contents insurance and mortgage lender (as appropriate) to ensure that working at home will not invalidate their policy (policies).   

Right to Enter:

By agreeing to a home-working arrangement, employees consent to the University’s representatives, at reasonable times and on reasonable notice, entering their home address to:

(a)     install, inspect, replace, repair, maintain or service University Property during the course of employment;

(b)     inspect or investigate where there are significant health and safety concerns;

(c)     recover University Property on or after the termination of employment.

Information Security and Data Protection:
Employees are responsible for ensuring the security of University Data in their home, in line with University’s Mobile and Remote Working Policy (ISP-14).  This policy details requirements for home working whether using personally owned or University provided equipment. For working with data classified as confidential or above also refer to University’s Information Handling Policy (ISP-07).Please contact your HR Manager to discuss any necessary arrangements in relation to contractual changes or the establishment of a home working post.

10. Parental leave

Parents with at least one year's continuous service at the University who have children under the age of 18 have a statutory entitlement to up to 18 weeks' unpaid leave per parent per child. Leave may be taken in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks per parent per child in any calendar year. Such provisions are in addition to maternity/paternity/adoption/shared parental leave. Please refer to the University's separate Parental Leave Policy.

11. Career break

Colleagues who have been employed for at least 3 years are eligible to apply 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.

12. Procedure for making and considering flexible working requests

Where a member of staff wishes to request flexible working, the following process will apply, which is in line with the statutory procedure. However note that arrangements such as changes to start/finish times can often be negotiated locally without the need to make a formal request (see Section 4, above).

  • The member of staff must submit a Flexible Working Request form in MyERP. The line manager will access and review the request in MyERP. Both parties can track the progress of a flexible working request in MyERP (see links above).
  • It is a statutory requirement that the employer must decide upon any request within three months of receipt, including any appeals, unless an extension to this timescale is agreed with the individual member of staff.
  • On receipt of the request in MyERP, the line manager should have a discussion as soon as possible with, as appropriate, the School/Section Manager and/or Faculty Manager and/or Head of School/Division, seeking advice from HR as needed.
  • The guidance in Sections 1-9, above, details many of the issues that will need to be taken into account in considering requests. The following broad areas must also be fully considered and weighed against the reasons behind the request:
    • the burden of any additional cost to the School/Department/Division;
    • the impact on ability to meet the needs of 'customers' (whether these be students, staff, patients or others) and operational requirements;
    • the ability to organise the work within available staffing;
    • the impact on quality of outputs;
    • the impact on individual or School/Departmental/Divisional performance;
    • the ability to recruit staff to cover any gaps;
    • sufficiency of work during the periods your member of staff proposes to work;
    • any planned structural changes.
    • All agreed arrangements will normally be subject to a trial period during which the arrangement will be monitored.
    • All requests should be considered in accordance with the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy. Where requests are submitted for reasons connected to a disability, please also refer to the Disability and Employment Policy.  For further advice, contact the relevant Faculty/Divisional HR Manager.
    • Following consideration of the request with the School/Section Manager and any other relevant parties, the line manager will normally arrange to meet with the member of staff to discuss the request further. 

If it is proposed that the request be agreed without amendments:

  • A formal meeting is not strictly required, but will generally still be helpful to enable the line manager to discuss with the member of staff how and when the changes might best be implemented.

If there is uncertainty around whether to agree the request, if the request cannot be accommodated, or if potential amendments need to be discussed:

  • The line manager must set up a meeting with the individual to take place as soon as possible. This is a statutory requirement and in such cases a meeting must take place even where the member of staff is on maternity or sickness leave. Line managers may ask the relevant HR Manager to attend the meeting and should note that the individual has the right to bring a friend, trades union representative or other representative to the meeting.

For all outcomes:

  • Once the relevant discussions have taken place as outlined above, the line manager should complete the ‘Line Manager Review’ section of the individual’s Flexible Working Request in MyERP, and submit it.  The form will workflow to the School/Section manager, who will liaise as necessary with any other relevant parties (such as the Head of School/Division/Faculty Manager) before confirming the decision and submitting the form in MyERP to Human Resources.
  • As soon as possible Human Resources will write to the individual to confirm the outcome formally.
  • The letter to the individual from Human Resources will either:
    • confirm that the request has been agreed and detail the appropriate arrangements and date from which these will start, or
    • confirm details of any amended arrangements that have been agreed and date from which these will start, or
    • confirm that the request cannot be accommodated, giving a short explanation of the reasons for this and setting out the appeal procedure.
    • Where applicable, the letter will also include details of any formal review arrangements, and, if appropriate, set out any action on which the agreement is dependent.

Once agreed, at whatever stage of this procedure, any change may become a permanent change to the member of staff’s terms and conditions of employment and they may not be entitled to revert back to their old work pattern (subject to any review arrangements agreed, unless explicitly agreed otherwise or as a result of a further formal flexible working request).

14. Appeal procedure

  • If an employee wishes to appeal they should write to the HR Director within 14 days of receiving the written notification of the decision, setting out the reasons for the appeal.
  • The HR Director will then arrange for the appeal to be heard by an Appropriate Manager who has had no prior involvement in the case.  The appeal hearing will be a review of the decision and will be supported by HR. 
  • The individual will have the right to attend the hearing and to be accompanied by a friend, trades union representative or other representative. The manager who made the initial decision regarding the request may also attend if appropriate.
  • The decision may be given at the appeal hearing and will in any event be confirmed in writing within fourteen days of the hearing.
  • The decision following the appeal shall be final.
  • The appeal process must be completed within 3 months of receipt of the original flexible working request.