Reducing your working hours

Whether you work full time or part-time, you might at some point want or need to reduce your working hours. This article will help you understand what you need to do and how your employer might respond.

Women in a suit smiling at work


It’s fairly common in our careers to want to change our working hours at some point. You might need to start earlier and finish earlier to work around other commitments, or it might involve changing from full time work to part time work. It can seem a little nerve-wracking as most of us prefer not to ‘rock the boat’ at work, but try not to worry.

You have a legal right to request flexible arrangements at work, and that includes a request to reduce working hours.

I want to reduce my hours at work – what do I do?

First, make sure you’re clear about what you want. Decide on your ideal outcome: which days you’ll work and your start and finish times. Then think about what that might mean to your team and your manager. If it will cause any challenges, having some solutions up your sleeve is very handy.

It might also be worth speaking to a few trusted colleagues to get their thoughts.  If more than one of you wants to put in a request for flexible working hours, it might be that you can find a joint solution – job sharing, for example.

Next, make an appointment to speak to your boss. Be open and honest with them about why you want the change – it’s easier for your manager to be understanding if they can put themselves in your shoes. They might explore the pros and cons with you about your proposed hours – but they probably won’t give you an answer straight away.

Put it in writing

For most flexible working requests, you need to follow up the conversation with your boss by writing a formal letter. Your letter needs to state the date, that  this is a ‘statutory request’ and the details of how you want to work flexibly and from when.

The letter also needs to include an explanation of how you think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with. You should also say whether you have made a flexible working application before (you can only apply once in any 12 month period).

There’s some useful information in this article about flexible working requests.

How much notice to change working hours in the UK?

Once you’ve submitted your request for reducing hours at work, the business is legally allowed to consider it for up to three months before approving or declining.  Some employers will give you an answer more quickly, but it’s important to note that it can take a while!

The employer has to give your request ‘reasonable’ consideration, and they can only reject it in certain circumstances – for example that your request will result in extra costs that will damage the business, or that the business won’t be able to meet customer demand under your approach.

If your application is rejected and you believe the decision is unfair, you can appeal. If you don’t get anywhere with an appeal you might decide to take it to tribunal. You would need to seek legal advice before pursuing this.

The good news, however, is that most businesses are beginning to recognise the benefits of having a diverse and flexible workforce, and are therefore more receptive to requests for flexible hours.

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