How to ask for flexible working

If you have been working for the same employee for 26 weeks or more, you are entitled to request a flexible working arrangement. It may be that you have caring responsibilities, have young children, or health issues that could be alleviated by a more flexible working schedule. Whatever your circumstances, here are some tips on how to negotiate a flexible working arrangement and the things that you need to consider.

What is flexible working?

In short, flexible working means working a different pattern to what you currently do. However, in practice this can take many forms. It may be a matter of moving from full to part time hours, or moving your existing hours to a different day. There are also a myriad of other possibilities, for example, working compressed hours, working an annualised contract, working remotely some of the time, job sharing or starting or finishing earlier/later. Obviously, what form your flexible working takes will depend on your circumstances and the requirements and constraints of your role/industry.

Be Proactive

It is generally better to be proactive when it comes to requesting flexible working. If you know that your circumstances are going to change, or you’re struggling to cope with your current work pattern, start talking to your employer as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you’re in a difficult position to open negotiations. Depending on your role and relationships within your organisation, it is often best to have a chat with your line manager first and then approach HR who can advise how to proceed.

Have a Plan

Be very clear about what you are asking for and consider all angles. It’s best to go in with solutions, not problems, and anticipate the possible obstacles to your request. Your employer has to consider the business case for your request, so you must take this into account. Don’t just concentrate on how you will benefit, make sure that you strongly emphasise the positive implications for your employer and the workplace. If there is a colleague already working flexibly, you could use them as an example of how good flexible working can be.

Have a back up plan

Your request is unlikely to be successful if you go in with a long list of demands and are reluctant to compromise. How flexible can you be? Can you realistically juggle things around if your employer is willing to make some concessions? Only you know what is possible in your situation, so make sure it’s clear in your own mind what you are willing to agree to before you walk into the meeting.

What if your request is denied?

Although they are becoming more common, not all flexible working requests are granted. Your employer has to balance the needs of the business with your right to work flexibly, and it isn’t always possible. If your request has been duly considered, but it is deemed that it isn’t possible to accommodate your request without negatively affecting the business, you will have to accept this and maybe think about a career change. However, there may be occasions where you feel that you have been unfairly treated. In this case it may be worth getting expert advice and taking further action. Your Trade Union or the ACAS flexible working helpline may be able to help.

Have you benefited from a flexible working arrangement? How important is flexible working to you? Get in touch and let me know.

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