ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Guidance on flexible working

More and more people are requesting flexible working as a way to bring about better work/life balance. Flexible working is not about working less but rather having greater control to get work done more effectively. This page offers guidance on how to request flexible working and how to make it work for you and your employer.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working refers to any working schedule that is outside of a normal 9 – 5 working pattern, where you work and how long you work and can include:

Flexible working guidelines

ICAEW has developed simple-to-use guidelines for employers and employees to use when considering flexible working.

View guidelines

  • Full-time (with flexible hours)
  • Flexi-time
  • Condensed hours
  • Home working
  • Shift work
  • Part time
  • Job sharing
  • Term time jobs
  • On-call jobs
  • Short contract

Flexible working legislation

As of June 2014 in the UK, all employees with 26 weeks of continuous service can legally request flexible working from their employer.

Case studies

Meet members who have successfully transitioned to working flexibly.  If you would like to share your story contact samantha.brown@icaew.com.

Clare Mahood: "The biggest challenge is myself"

Clare Mahood

Clare Mahood, Associate Director at Deloitte works term time while her children are at school and when the children don’t go to school, she doesn’t work. Clare describes why the biggest challenge to flexible working is herself: “I don’t want to turn my back on work or jeopardise any relationships with clients or my colleagues and with the greatest efforts sometimes things don’t get finished in time. Surrendering control and delegating things doesn’t always sit well with me.

“We work as a team so they aren’t just my clients they are all our clients. I have to remember that the days are for my children and if I have to look at emails in the first few days of the school holidays then I need to do it in the evening. My clients are all over the world and therefore they don’t need me particularly there and then and an answer the following day is sufficient. In terms of delegating, I work with some fantastic and more than capable people and they don’t let me down and we work as a team so they aren’t just my clients they are all our clients.”

Lisa Surridge: "Don’t be afraid to request flexible working"

Lisa Surridge

Lisa Surridge, a senior manager at Platt Rushton reduced her hours after returning from maternity leave. Lisa explains how the smallest changes made by employers can have the biggest impact on their employees: “Don’t be afraid to make the request. If flexibility is granted, it can have a huge positive impact on your work/home lifestyle. The worst that can happen is that your employer can say no. Make sure you have considered how it will work. Ultimately you want it to work, so you need to make sure it does. You may need to adapt to certain situations as they arise, and manage your workload carefully.”

Lydia Ebdon: "Becoming more flexible was not easy at first, I had been stuck in a routine for decades"

Lydia Ebdon

Lydia Ebdon, who manages her own accountancy practice didn’t find the move to flexible working easy: “Becoming more flexible was not easy at first, I had been stuck in a routine for decades.” However it was very much the right decision: “Do it. It is incredibly liberating, and we need to be much smarter about the environmental cost of travel and flexible working can help a lot. If you don’t do it, ask yourself whether you are brave and innovative or a Luddite. No one wants to be a Luddite.”

Gemma Rudrum: "Fighting the urge to check emails can be difficult when your office is in your house"

Gemma Rudrum

Gemma Rudrum, Faculty Manager at BPP describes some of the challenges she has faced with flexible working: “It can be difficult to make others understand that working reduced hours does not mean that the work is of a reduced quality. Some members of staff outside of my direct team find it difficult to reconcile part time work with good quality work, which can be frustrating.

"Homework combined with part time working has its own unique challenges, particularly having the strength to turn the laptop off. Fighting the urge to check emails or sit down and ‘just do that one thing’ can be really difficult when your office is in the house."

Despite these challenges, Gemma has found the whole experience of flexible working very positive. “Flexible working has allowed me to continue to build on my career, albeit at a slower pace than if it were my primary focus, and create a fulfilling working experience. It has allowed BPP to retain an experienced member of staff that contributes to both my direct team and the wider BPP business.”