Flexible Working at Tesco

Flexible Working at Tesco

Last updated 11/06/2021


There may be times when a colleague needs to change their current working pattern on a permanent or temporary basis in order to fit work around their personal life. Tesco recognise this and offer a range of flexible working options to allow colleagues to fit in their home, family or personal commitments, such as school times, caring responsibilities or hobbies.

Flexible working arrangements provide the opportunity for a healthy work-life balance. As well as allowing us to attract and retain colleagues who enjoy a wide range of activities outside of work, it allows colleagues to balance both their own needs and the needs of our customers.

1. Who’s this policy for?

This policy applies to any permanent colleagues who have worked for Tesco continuously for at least 26 weeks. It will help colleagues understand more about permanently changing their terms and conditions to enable them to work more flexibly, and also covers:

  • The flexible working options available to colleagues
  • How to make a formal or informal flexible working request
  • How working differently may impact a colleague’s benefits
  • How managers will make their decision

This policy doesn’t form part of a colleague’s contract and may be amended or withdrawn at any time.

2. What is flexible working?

Flexible working allows flexibility on where, when and the hours a colleague works. It is a way of working that can be adapted to suit a colleague’s needs, enabling them to have the ability to manage both work and personal commitments more flexibly. 

There are many forms of flexible working, including:

  • Part-time working
  • Having a fixed shift pattern
  • Working a set number of days a week
  • Job sharing with a colleague
  • Working from home/remotely some of the time
  • International remote working

We also offer a pre-retirement scheme where colleagues with ten years’ service can reduce their working week by one fifth in their last six months in preparation for retirement (please refer to the leavers and retirement policy for more information).

For colleagues who want a longer period out of the business we have a lifestyle break policy, this allows colleagues to take anything from four weeks to fifty-two weeks leave, returning to their previous role after.  Colleagues can refer to the Lifestyle Break Policy on Colleague Help for more information.

Many colleagues in the business already work flexibly; different shift patterns and business areas mean we can accommodate a variety of requests. 

The flexible working solution most appropriate for colleagues will depend on:

  • The job a colleague has
  • A colleague’s level of responsibility
  • A colleague’s location (i.e. office, store or distribution centre)
  • Whether there are seasonal fluctuations in a colleague’s workload
  • If a colleague is a manager, whether they will be able to display a degree of flexibility with their flexible working arrangements. For example, we might need a colleague to attend meetings or respond to urgent business via e-mail or phone on the day(s) you are they are working
3. Who can request to work flexibly?

All employees have a statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ service. 

However, if a colleague wishes to make a flexible working request before this point they can speak to their manager as they may be able to accommodate the colleague’s request.

A colleague can only make one formal flexible working request a year.

4. How do colleagues request to work flexibly?
a. Informal changes to working arrangements

For any informal and therefore temporary changes to a colleague’s working arrangements, they must speak to their manager to make their request.

Many of our flexible working arrangements can be agreed informally. If a colleague’s manager agrees to their request, they will confirm the changes in writing to the colleague so their new temporary arrangement is documented.

An informal and temporary change may include requesting to work from home on an occasional basis, or starting work an hour earlier in order to finish an hour earlier for a couple of weeks in the summer while a colleague’s child is on their school holiday.

A colleague can make more than one informal flexible working request every 12 months. Their arrangement will be reviewed regularly by their manager. Please be aware that making numerous requests within 12 months may not be practical for the colleague’s team or the business and could be refused.

b) Formal changes to working arrangements

For formal and therefore more long-term requests which involve a permanent change to a colleague’s terms and conditions (unless agreed otherwise), they must complete the request form and pass it their manager. Once a colleague’s manager has reviewed the request, they will meet with them to discuss their request in more detail.

As the process can take up to three months from start to finish, it may take the colleague’s manager several weeks to process their request, however they will aim to respond to the colleague as soon as possible.

A colleague is only entitled to make a formal request for flexible working once every 12 months, so it is important to ensure that they are happy with the arrangements that have been agreed.

5. How will a formal request be handled?

A colleague’s manager will arrange to meet with them to discuss their request and the possible impact it may have on the colleague’s team, customers and the needs of the business. A colleague has the right to be accompanied at this meeting by a colleague or trade union representative.

A colleague’s request form will be discussed during the meeting and will play an important part in deciding whether their requested working days and hours are practical.

If a colleague’s manager thinks it may be difficult to agree to their request, they’ll talk this through with the colleague and may suggest other options that could work for them, i.e. a flexible working solution that they feel suits both the colleague and the business.

A colleague’s manager may need further information from them to help make a decision. If so, the colleague must supply this as soon as they can. If a colleague refuses to supply them with this information, their manager may consider their request as withdrawn.

If a colleague fails to attend their flexible working meeting their manager may conclude that they have withdrawn their request and the colleague will not be able to make another request for 12 months. Therefore, it is important for a colleague to let their manager know if they are unable to make their suggested date and time so they can move it to a time that works for them.

When will a colleague be told the outcome of their formal request?

The colleague’s manager will then need to take some time to consider their request and everything that is discussed during the meeting. Please be aware that this could take several weeks as the colleague’s manager needs to assess their requirements, the business needs and the potential impact on their team and/or customers before coming to their conclusion.

The colleague’s manager will then communicate their decision to them both verbally and in writing. The outcome could be one of the following three options:

  • They fully agree to the request
  • They agree to part of the request and propose an alternative arrangement
  • They may suggest to trial the arrangement to see how it may work
  • They refuse the request and provide the colleague with the reasons for their refusal

A colleague’s manager can refuse their request for any of the following reasons, in line with statutory legislation:

Reason for refusal…

Detrimental effect on Tesco’s ability to meet customer demand

A colleague’s request can’t be granted as it would mean that there wouldn’t be enough colleagues to respond to customer requests/issues at certain times.

Inability to reorganise work among existing colleagues

Current colleague numbers, vacancies or flexible working arrangements within the team may mean that areas are already ‘spread thin’ and existing colleagues wouldn’t be able to pick up the work.

Detrimental impact on quality


A colleague’s request means that certain accountabilities wouldn’t be picked up by anyone else and therefore quality of output would suffer.

Inability to recruit additional colleagues

We can’t recruit the right person to fill the rota gaps or to complete a job-share. 

Detrimental impact on performance


The working pattern a colleague has requested may fall on days that their manager or team do not work or on a day they do not work many hours. As a result a colleague’s performance may be impacted as they do not have the support required to perform well in their role.

Insufficient work during the periods a colleague proposes to work


For example, a colleague requests a change whereby they come into work early and finish earlier.  If the job involves contact with key people (e.g. suppliers/customers) who are not accessible during these hours, and they don’t have other work to do in this time, then this flexible working solution would not be suitable.

The burden of additional costs

If we need to spend more money to support a request, e.g. where a colleague’s role results in a job share this may involve two company cars, two laptops etc.

Planned structural changes


There may be proposed changes to roles and accountabilities which make this an inappropriate time to agree to a flexible working request.  This can be re-reviewed once the structural changes have taken place.

6. Can a colleague appeal the outcome of their flexible working request?

If a colleague does not agree with the outcome they can make an appeal in writing within 14 days of their manager informing them of their decision.

An appeal meeting will be held in which a colleague’s request will be reviewed by a different manager who has not been involved in the process. The reasons why their request was declined will be assessed from a fresh perspective and a decision made as to whether or not it can be accommodated.

7. What happens if my request is agreed?
a) Will a colleague’s pay change?

It may do, depending on a colleague’s request. For example, if they requested to work fewer hours a week then their pay will reduce accordingly. If a colleague requested to work a different shift pattern, they may find they’re entitled to premium rates that they didn’t receive before.

b) Will any of a colleague’s benefits be impacted?



Car allowance, bonus, Retirement Savings

If a colleague’s earnings reduce, anything calculated as a % of their earnings will reduce too.

Paid holiday entitlement

If a colleague’s flexible working arrangement is to work fewer days and/or hours then the amount of days’ holiday they are entitled to will reduce accordingly.

If a colleague changes the days they work then this may impact their Bank Holiday entitlement.

Childcare vouchers, Cycle-to-Work

A colleague’s benefit-based deductions may need to be recalculated so we can ensure that their pay is over the National Minimum Wage.

8. If a colleague’s request is agreed, will there be a trial period?

Unless agreed otherwise, any change to a colleague’s working hours is a permanent change to their terms and conditions, therefore a trial period might be suggested to ensure the new shift pattern is suitable for the colleague and the business.

If a flexible working arrangement does not appear to be working successfully then the colleague’s manager will discuss this with them and work to find possible solutions.  

9. Can a colleague change their mind after submitting a flexible working request?

If a colleague wishes to withdraw their request they can do so at any time. They should speak to their manager about this and also confirm their decision in writing. Be aware that if a colleague withdraws their request, they won’t be able to make another formal request for a further 12 months. 

If a colleague has already started their new working arrangement and they wish to revert back to their previous arrangement, the opportunity to do this will be reviewed on a case by case basis by the colleague’s manager.

10. What is the difference between ‘smarter working’ and ‘flexible working’?
a) Smarter working

Smarter working involves a colleague thinking about their working week and how best they can spend their time to meet their objectives, the needs of the team and their needs as an individual. This will help us to be at our best for more of the time and can improve productivity.

This may involve flexing a colleague’s day around their workload, their team and the business needs; which could mean starting and finishing work at different times on different days, changing from week to week. It may also mean working from a different location – possibly spending more time in stores, at suppliers, or agencies a colleague may work with, or from home.

Any smarter working arrangements a colleague makes are informal and mutually agreed with their manager. It should be adaptable from week to week.

For example:

Sharon works full time at the Welwyn Garden City office. She has always worked regular office hours Monday to Friday. Due to the office car park being very full on Monday and Tuesday mornings she has asked her manager if she can work from home on either a Monday or Tuesday. This will allow her to avoid the traffic and free up a car parking space for somebody who needs to be in the office on these days.

Further details on smarter working can be found on Colleague Help.

b) Flexible working

Flexible working arrangements are more formal changes to a colleague’s working arrangements, such as:

  • Changes to a colleague’s fixed hours or days of work
  • Fixed working from home days

For example:

1. John was a full time Customer Assistant but since his back operation he has decreased his hours. He’s now on a flexible contract working 24 hours a week

2. Karina works in the evenings as a customer assistant on checkouts. She has always worked Thursdays and Saturdays as this is when her partner is home and can look after her elderly mum who lives with them. She’s recently asked to increase her hours and now works on a Friday too.

3. Denzel has recently split from his partner and shares custody of their children. He works a set shift pattern as he needs a set routine to allow him to make himself available for childcare duties.

4. Mary is a marketing manager who has a long commute. She works from the office four days a week and one day from home. Mary is really flexible and is happy to change her days at work, occasionally working five days in the office when needed.

These need to be formally agreed as per the process outlined in this policy. 

11. International Remote Working

This section is not applicable to colleagues who work in Stores and Distribution.

International remote working is where a colleague works outside their normal country of employment. It is important to understand that international remote working may have an impact on tax, immigration and other legal responsibilities for both the colleague and Tesco.

International remote working may be approved by the colleague’s line manager and People Business Partner, but only once they have agreed this with the Global Mobility team.

A colleague is a WL1, WL2 or WL3 colleague;

The period of International Remote Working (IRW) is three weeks or less, and is not part of a broader pattern;

There are no compliance concerns, i.e. the colleague has the right to work in that country and there is no cost to Tesco as a result of this working arrangement;

The travel is not in breach of Government travel advice. It is important to follow restrictions and not go against Government travel advice, however, in exceptional circumstances we may support travel to a restricted country. The latest Foreign Travel Advice including countries and territories exempt from advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel can be found here.

Requests to work abroad for a longer period (of more than three weeks) or for WL4+ colleagues will need to be reviewed and risk assessed by Global Mobility prior to approval. Where cases are reviewed and risk assessed, the type of work undertaken and the personal driver behind the request will be considered.

An online form must be completed for all instances of International Remote Working so we know which of our colleagues are working overseas, should we need to support them in any way and to track Tesco’s presence as a company in other countries for compliance purposes.

Of course, taking the odd call, reading emails or responding to urgent matters from time to time does not require prior approval, but working remotely abroad for any meaningful duration must be reported to Global Mobility.

If a colleague wants to take a longer trip abroad, they may want to explore our lifestyle break policy.

If you work in Tesco and have any questions about international remote working please email Globalmobility@tesco.com.

  • Smarter Working Colleague Help page
  • Flexible Working Request Form
  • Flexible Working Manager’s Guide
  • Flexible Working Manager’s Checklist
  • Job Share Guide

Policy info

Version No.

Date of change

Summary of change


17th May 2021

New policy – First external version of the policy

Policy owner:  UK Workplace Relations.
Ownership and confidentiality

This policy and any associated documentation remains the property of Tesco and should be returned if requested.

This is a reduced version of the full Flexible Working Policy which has been created, so that people external to Tesco can see the flexible options that are available prior to joining the business. A full version of the flexible working policy is available on Colleague Help. 

This is an online document.  Hard copies and downloaded versions are valid only on the day printed or downloaded.