Guide to going part-time

7th August 2013 at 01:00

Applying to go part-time



Trying to juggle home and family life? Single dad or mum? Not a single dad or mum, but needing more time with the kids? On maternity leave and wondering if you can return part time? 

Caring for elderly parents?  Getting long in the tooth yourself, and looking to downsize your job?  Wanting extra time for a hobby, or to start a business?  Any reason at all?


Here's how to write the letter to your headteacher.


It can be used by anyone, male or female, who has been employed for 26 weeks with the employer, although return from maternity leave is the most common time for you to take stock of your situation.  You do NOT have to justify your request with a reason.


On 30 June 2014 the Flexible Working Regulations were amended.


This means that the right to request flexible working is extended to cover all employees after 26 weeks' service


Previously it only applied to those with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and certain carers.  As of 30 June 2014, the previous statutory procedure for requests has been abolished.  Instead of the former process, there is a requirement on the employer to consider requests 'in a reasonable manner' and tell the employee of the decision within 3 months.


A new ACAS Code of Practice  and guidance is now in place


And here's a short video that explains it    Right to request flexible working


There is a formal procedure involved in asking to change to part-time hours, and I suggest that you follow it exactly, very formally.


A right to request only, not a right to flexible working


You have a legal right to make an application (but only once per year), and have it seriously considered, but not a right to have it granted, nor a right to have it granted the way that you want it.  For example, you might ask to work only three days a week, and the employer grants this, but doesn't grant the specific three days that you wanted.  This can be disappointing for some people who think that by requesting flexible working, they have a right to it, and it will be agreed by the employer.  Not so, I'm afraid. 


What is the right to request flexible working?

Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made.

An employee can only make one statutory request in any 12 month period.

Employees who have been employed for less than 26 weeks, agency workers and office holders do not have a statutory right to request flexible working. 

Requests to work flexibly must be considered objectively and an employer can only refuse them if there are business reasons for doing so. The statutory code of practice requires employers to do this. These business reasons are set out in legislation

So, if the request is turned down, it must be for an appropriate business reason, and they must tell you what the reason is so that you can appeal against it. 


These are the ONLY legal business reasons for refusing your request


● The burden of any additional costs is unacceptable to the organisation.

● An inability to reorganise work among existing staff.

● Inability to recruit additional staff.

● The employer considers the change will have a detrimental impact on quality.

● The employer considers the change would have a detrimental effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand.

● Detrimental impact on performance.

●There is insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work.

● Planned structural changes, for example, where the employer intends to reorganise or change the business and considers the flexible working changes may not fit with these plans.


First stage is to put your request in writing to the Headteacher; s/he then has 3 months in which to give you his/her response.


There are two negative points here for e.g. those returning from mat leave.  Firstly, it was previously only those who were carers/parents who had this right.  Now it is open to all, there may be more pressure of request, and this could make it harder for you to have this opportunity granted if you apply after maternity leave.

And secondly, previously the Head had 28 days to hold a meeting with you to discuss this and tell you Yes/No.  Now it is three months . . .


NB You must say how it can be made possible


You can see from the letter I am suggesting that the onus is on YOU to show how it can be managed, I suggest that YOU  identify any possible drawbacks for the school and say how they can be overcome.

If you just say there are no problems, and then they identify some and turn your request down, you haven't had a chance to show a possible solution. So make sure you think it through carefully, both the problems (normally to do with communication between the two halves) and how to solve them. 

 Here's the sort of letter you should write. Nice and formal - shows you want a formal - and legal - reply! 

Dear xxx                                                                                                                   Date

I would like to apply to work a pattern that is different to my normal working pattern under my right provided in law.  I would wish this to begin on (date).

I confirm that I meet the eligibility criteria of a minimum of 26 weeks continuous employment as a direct employee, not as an agency worker.  I also confirm that I have not made a request to work flexibly under this right during the past 12 months.

The proposed new working pattern that I am applying for is ………………………

I believe that this will not impact negatively on the school.  In particular I believe that the following business reasons set out in law for refusing my request are not applicable in this case:

  • Additional costs that would be unacceptable 
  • An inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
  • An inability to recruit additional staff.
  • The change will have a detrimental impact on quality.
  • The change would have a detrimental effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demand.
  • There would be a detrimental impact on performance.
  • There is insufficient work during the periods I propose to work.
  • There are planned structural changes, and the flexible working changes may not fit with these plans.

(Add anything here below that you DO think may happen - communication issues generally, and how to solve them)

This proposed change might affect you as an employer in that ………………………………………. This impact on you as an employer can be lessened or removed by ……………………………

Yours sincerely



There you have it – that’s what you should write. Cross your fingers as you type it – I wish you good luck with your request.


N.B. you should note that if granted, your contract will change PERMANENTLY to a part-time one, and you will not have an automatic right to a full-time post in the future, you’ll have to apply with other candidates.


 Some helpful suggestions from the poster Frustum

Many years ago, I was in a department where two of us wanted to go part-time and a former colleague was interested in coming back part-time.  We had a similar situation to many secondary schools, in that there were always split classes, because the teaching load for most teachers was not a whole number of groups.  I tried the experiment of taking two full-time teachers' timetables from the current timetable, and showing that they could be split threeways without creating any more splits than had been there before.  It was useless in our case, because in those days the Head could say no with no reason, but if you can pre-empt the "too many splits" by explaining how this could be avoided, then it will be harder for the Head to use that argument.  The other thing you could do, given that there have been split classes before, is to look at whether these classes have actually made less progress than others.

Your application might be able to say that

- there may be one or two split classes, but that this is no more than usual

- the syllabus can easily be split between two teachers, as it has been in previous split classes

- data over the last two years shows that classes whose teaching was split made expected progress

- your department has already established effective means of communication between teachers of split classes.

(But don't say those things unless you've checked it out for your department. I know that for my case, the timetables were easier to split threeways because we all taught A-level, where it was preferred to split the teaching between two teachers, so those lessons could be swapped fairly easily to fit around keeping lower-school classes with one teacher.)


Thank you for that contribution, Frustum.


TIPS for Headteachers


If you get a request for a change to part-time working, I suggest that you follow these procedures:

  • Acknowledge receipt politely
  • Confirm that you will be giving serious consideration to this request, and will meet to discuss this within X number of days.  Make it reasonable, don't put it back for the full 3 month period in law!
  • Keep to that timetable!
  • Contact HR at the Local Authority, or Head Office (if Academy or Independent chain), or your contracted HR service, if you are go-it-alone, to get their advice on how best to respond. You don't wish to fall foul of anti-discrimination laws by accident.
  • Approach the request from the point of view: How can we make this possible?, rather from the one of: This is so inconvenient, it will be impossible! A negative response can only be based on the above  business reasons, and it is in your best interests to enable it to happen if you can
  • Read the advice for employers in the ACAS guidelines - very helpful for you


Best wishes