5 steps to request a four-day work week in 2024

With new laws on Flexible Working due to come into effect soon, we explain how you can request a four-day week from your employer.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

On Monday, the government’s Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill officially passed through parliament, presenting a golden opportunity for employees to advocate for a four-day work week from April 2024.

From next Spring, workers can make two requests for flexible working hours, times, or location in a 12-month period from day one of employment. Managers will also have to provide proper reasoning for an employee before rejecting a petition for flexible work – including for a four-day week.

The increasing popularity of the four-day work week has been fueled by the pandemic, which has accelerated the shift towards flexible working. In a Startups’ survey of 530 UK employees, carried out last May, 78% of respondents were in favour of the benefit due to its positive impact on employee wellbeing, productivity, and job satisfaction.

In spite of some companies ending their trials and reverting back to traditional working patterns, a growing body of evidence supports the benefits of the four-day week, the perk is poised to become a mainstream reality in the UK. We explain how employees can take advantage of the law and make working a four-day week a New Year’s resolution you can stick to.

How to request a four-day work week

Research from Aspire has previously uncovered that seven in ten employees planned to ask their employer to embrace a four-day week this year.

But initiating a flexible working request is not like submitting a casual ask for a day off to binge-watch Netflix. Four-day working weeks are not compressed hours. Instead of the traditional 9-5, employees work 28 hours per week across four days to enjoy a three-day weekend. Crucially, this comes with no cut to pay.

Naturally, employers may be suspicious that a move to a four-day week might lead to a drop in output. That’s why the submission demands a high level of preparation.

Workers need to carefully consider their objectives, gather intelligence on the company’s policies, and craft a persuasive proposal for bosses, before they can present a serious case for a switch.

Now is the best time to ask for a four-day week. This year, more businesses have sought to adopt shorter working hours and experiment with four-day workweek trials, presenting much stronger evidence for doing so.

Here are five steps to submitting a four-day workweek request ahead of the new Flexible Working Bill:

Step 1. Check your eligibility

All employees (including those who are returning from maternity leave, paternity leave, or classed as disabled) are legally entitled to make a flexible working application if they fulfil all of the following conditions:

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks&
  • Are legally classed as an employee
  • Have not made any other flexible working entry in the last 12 months

*When the Flexible Working Bill comes into effect on 6 April 2024, employees will benefit from a day-one right to request, abolishing the need for an employment period of 26 weeks or more. 

Depending on the workplace’s policy, some companies will permit employees who do not meet the above requirements to submit a flexible request. Workers should consult their employee handbook to confirm this.

Step 2. Put it in writing

Next, the staff member must submit a formal appeal in writing, clearly stating that they are making a statutory flexible working request. The appeal should include the following details:

  • Employee name, address, date the request is sent, and contact details
  • Statement that the employee is making a statutory flexible working request
  • Details of the desired flexible working arrangement (workers can ask for a four-day week during specific weeks, for example during school term time, or for a set amount of time, such as six months)
  • Explanation of how the change will benefit the employee and the company
  • Explanation of how the change will impact the employee and the company
  • Any documents related to the submission (e.g., childcare arrangements)

As shown above, the onus is currently on the employee to explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.

Once the Flexible Working Bill comes into force, workers will be rid of this requirement. Nevertheless, it’s still worth including this reasoning in your request to strengthen your case for flexibility.

Step 3. Meet with the employer

Once the application has been received, the employer should set up a meeting to talk about the details involved before they come to a final decision. This discussion is not meant to intimidate but to open a dialogue about your Friday freedom aspirations.

This provides a good opportunity for the employee to highlight the benefits of the change, such as improved work-life balance, plus any challenges it might pose. If a full-blown four-day week isn’t feasible, the manager might propose a compressed workweek, a hybrid of shorter days and longer hours.

Step 4. Wait for a decision

Next, it’s a waiting game. Once your employer has reviewed your request, they must let you know their decision within a maximum of three months.

This is another reason why the Flexible Working Bill is so important. Once introduced, it will significantly shorten the waiting period for hopeful employees to two months, eliminating weeks of nail-biting anxiety.

Step 5. Respond accordingly

If the response is yes..

Rejoice! The employee can bid farewell to their previous, monotonous five-day grind and embrace the four-day work week for that sought-after balance of work and play.

If the employer approves a request, this will usually change the terms of the worker’s employment contract. Businesses should put the approval in writing, including:

  • The agreed change, including when the new working pattern will start
  • How long the change will last, if for a fixed period of time
  • An agreed date that the change in policy will be reviewed, if required
  • How/ if it will impact working hours, pay, job location, and holiday entitlement

If the response is no..

Your employer can turn down your appeal for flexible working if there’s a valid business reason for doing so. By law, your employer can turn down your flexible working request if:

  • It will cost too much, or require another employee to be recruited
  • There will be a negative effect on productivity or quality of work
  • The business won’t be able to meet customer demand
  • Upcoming changes to the business may scupper plans for a four-day week 

Workers can submit an appeal in the form of a written letter or email to ask for the decision to be looked at again. This must also be responded to within three months of the request being made.

As Coldplay put it: when you try your best, and you don’t succeed, put in another petition for a four-day week. At the moment, employees can make a new application if it’s been more than 12 months since your last submission.

However, the useful thing about the incoming Flexible Working Bill is that it will enable employees to make two submissions per year, meaning employees who have been turned down can simply try again six months later.

Final thoughts

As HR managers anticipate the arrival of next year’s Flexible Working Bill, now is an opportune time for employees to seize the opportunity to lobby for a four-day work week.

By utilising the newfound flexibility granted by the bill, and presenting compelling proof for its benefits, employees can revolutionise the way we work in 2024 to usher in an era of employee wellbeing and productivity. And all in time for that 5pm finish on a Thursday.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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