UCL Human Resources


Flexible working case studies

Flexible working case studies related to hybrid working.

Flexible Working Case Study 1

Sam works in Student Registry Services and has two primary school age children.  They work Monday to Friday from 9am-3pm. Under the interim guidance their team have come to campus on Mondays and Wednesdays.  They use a childminder on these two days for before and after school care.

On the days they work from home, they can take their children to school and pick them up without it impacting on their working hours.

Under the new hybrid working arrangements, the team will be required to come in on a Tuesday and Thursday (due to space arrangements with other teams).  Occasionally, with reasonable notice, the team will need to come in on additional days (for student open days and graduation). 

Sam does not want to change to Tuesday and Thursday because their current childminder does not have space on those days.  They will also struggle to change their childminding days on an ad hoc basis. 

Sam has put in an official flexible working request to keep their campus days as Mondays and Wednesdays only, with no ad hoc days.

What should the line manager do?

  1. Consider the request, including how Sam perceives that it will impact on the department/team and suggestions they have made to mitigate them.  The manager should also consult their Head of Department, in line with the Flexible working policy and to ensure a fair and consistent approach in the department.  They will consider the criteria for dealing with a request for flexible or revised working arrangements.
  2. Within 28 days of receipt of the application, arrange a meeting with Sam to discuss the request. They will be given one week’s advance notice of the meeting. Sam is entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or UCL trade union representative. 
  3. At the meeting, Sam will be asked to expand on their proposal.  The manager will raise their concerns that Sam will not be able to collaborate with the team in person at all if they only attend campus on Monday and Wednesday.  In turn, this will negatively impact the team’s ability to meet department objectives and follow the Activity Led Framework
  4. Sam’s manager should explain why they would be unlikely to be able to agree the request using one or more of the permitted reasons in The Flexible Working Procedure. As well as listing the reasons, Sam’s manager must explain why this is the case.

For example:

  • There will be a detrimental effect on the department's ability to meet the demands upon it – in this case, there would not be enough face-to-face resource to cover the student facing activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • It is not possible to re-organise work amongst existing staff, for the same reason
  • There will be a detrimental impact on performance – as Sam will be less able to produce quality work if they are not able to collaborate with the team face-to-face and have informal conversations.
  • There will be insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work (on-site) – as the rest of the team will not be in on the days that Sam is.
  1. They should then explore other options with Sam for example, whether there are alternative childcare options available on a Tuesday and Thursday.  Whether they could work shorter hours on campus days and either reduce the FTE or make up the hours on alternative days.  Could they change childcare provider with notice? Do they have any family or friends that could assist with the ad-hoc days on campus. Could UCL be flexible about hours on the campus ad-hoc days?

N.b. Teams are being asked to adopt regular pattens of attendance where possible, so that staff have reasonable notice of when they are required on-site.  If ad hoc attendance is required, one compromise could be to allow Sam to modify the working hours on that day so they can work on-site but also still be able to do the school runs.  For example, arriving at 10am instead of 9am, and leaving at 2pm instead of 3pm. They could reduce their FTE or arrange to make up any lost hours at another mutually agreeable time / day. 

If Sam cannot secure permanent childcare for Tuesdays and Thursdays, they could ask for reduced hours in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays on a permanent basis, rather than simply not being able to come in at all. However, as this would be a permanent change, the line manager would need to consider whether this would have a detrimental impact on the department if they cannot increase hours of existing staff or hire additional resource to make up the lost hours therefore, one of the permitted reasons must apply.

If the request was accommodated, Sam would need to make sure she was on-site for core meetings.

  1. Following the meeting, Sam’s manager should take advice from the HR Business Partner.
  2. The manager must notify the employee of the decision and confirm this in writing within two weeks following the date of the meeting , using either Part B (request accepted) or Part C (request rejected), of the Line Manager Decision Form.  If the request is refused, they should advise how long Sam will be given to secure alternative childcare arrangements.

Flexible Working Case Study 2

Alex works as an IT Support Analyst, on a full-time basis. They currently come on-site for team collaboration on Tuesdays, but in light of the new hybrid working arrangements, the team day is now changing to a Friday to ensure on-site cover to provide in person support to fix broken laptops.  

Alex has recently started to take an interest in golf and because they normally work from home on a Friday, they are able to be on the golf course for 5.45pm. However, Friday afternoons in the office means they won’t make it back in time to tee off with their friends. Although they have not submitted a formal application for flexible working, they have asked their manager if they can finish at 4pm on Fridays instead of 5.30pm.

What should the line manager do?

The manager should consider the request in line with operational requirements and ensure there will be sufficient cover on Friday afternoons after 4pm, on-site. Just because the reason for the request is not related to caring responsibilities, it is still a valid request because flexible working is open to all to request.

 If the request can be accommodated because there is sufficient cover for the last hour and half on a Friday (which is normally a quiet day, in any case), there is no need to follow the formal flexible working application procedure.  The manager should agree to the request and the change will be processed in MyHR. Alex’s pay and annual leave entitlement will be pro-rated.

If the manager is unsure if the arrangement will work out, the request can be agreed to on a trial basis for six months, in line with the Flexible Working Policy. The manager should agree some measures with Alex on how the arrangements will be monitored.