If you're a father with a child under six years old, you have a right to request flexible work and to have your request taken seriously by your employer. This right could be the key to you changing your working pattern to fit in more time with your children. We provide the details.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working isn't just part-time hours. James, for example, works full-time but starts and finishes early to pick his son up from the childminder. Sunil asked for a change in the place that he works, so he could work at home every other week to be with his new baby and pre-school daughter.

You are asking for a change in the way you do your job, not a new job. To get some ideas have a look at what other dads have done. Think carefully about your request because, unless you say you want a temporary change, any change agreed will be permanent.

Work life balance: what others have done

Who can make a request?

To make a formal request you must be an employee with 26 weeks' service. You also must be responsible for a child who is under six (or under 18 if they get Disability Living Allowance), or the carer of a disabled adult. You cannot make a request if you have made one to this employer in the past 12 months. Some employers have their own rules allowing more people to make a request.

Parental responsibility: you and the law

How do I make a request?

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has a model form you can use as well a guidance on how the procedure works. There is no requirement to use the BERR's form, your employer might have their own form or you can put your request in a letter. If you do not use the BERR's form you have to make sure that all the detail you need is included, otherwise your employer doesn't have to follow the procedure.

Getting flexible work: maximise your chances of success

What happens once my employer receives my request?

Unless your employer agrees to your request straight away, they must meet with you within 28 days to discuss what you want.

Your employer then has 14 days to write to you, agreeing to your request or turning it down.

If they turn it down they have to give you reasons. There are specified business reasons they must give but they must also give some explanation so you can understand their reasons.

You have 14 days to appeal by writing to your employer, who must meet with you within 14 days. and give you a final decision 14 days after the appeal meeting.

You have the right to be accompanied by a colleague at both the initial and the appeal meeting.

Your workplace rights

What if my employer ignores my request, or worse?

If your employer fails to follow the procedure set down in law, you can take them to a tribunal. A tribunal will only compensate you for the failure of procedure and will not normally look at whether or not your employer should have allowed your flexible working although they may look at if your employer relied on incorrect facts.

You must not be treated less well for making, or trying to make, a request for flexible working. See what to do if your rights are denied.

What to do if your rights are denied