How do you ask for flexible working?

  Tay      Mar 03 2020     Career Advice, Expert Articles, Industry News

Up your chances of getting your request approved with our expert guide

How do you ask for flexible working?

Flexible working is no longer the unicorn it used to be, which is great news for a vast majority of the working population. Recent research from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation revealed 86% of us either have or want a more agile way of working, whether that’s part-time hours, compressed hours, a change in shift patterns or the option to work from home.

Yet for many workers, it might still feel just that bit out of reach. Just because you have a legal right to request it, doesn’t mean you’ll get it. A statutory request law that came into practice in 2014 dictates that employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ - that includes assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application and holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee. But the conclusion of that meeting is likely to be a no unless you make your case well.

Legally, employees can only make one formal flexible working request every 12 months, so if it’s something that's important to you, it’s essential to get it right. Here’s how:

Put it in writing. Your request letter or email should say you’re making a ‘statutory flexible working request’ and must include the date you’re sending it, the change you’d like to make, when you’d like the change to start and how any effects the change could have on your work or the business might be dealt with. You should also mention the date of any previous flexible working requests you’ve made, and if your request relates to something covered by the Equality Act 2010 (for example to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for a disability you have). That's your legal boxes ticked!

Be realistic. Pick apart every single line of your job description and function within the company; what is going to be able to be done? What is potentially not going to be able to get done when you’re physically absent? Be realistic and upfront about that, but don’t feel defeated by it...

Get creative. Make an effort to really think through how it can work. E.g explain to your manager that there’s a part of your job that you need some time on without distraction, and a day a week working from home will allow that, and saving some of the elements of your role for that day will free up time when you’re in the office for daily tasks that you need to be more reactive for. Whatever it is you are proposing, think how you can position it in the most positive light. It will be harder to immediately rule out than a vague: “I’d like flexible working please.”

Put yourself in the shoes of the firm. Don’t just appeal to them from the angle that working from home or working different hours will be better for your life: ultimately, you’re there to do a job. You need to demonstrate that your function can still be performed as successfully as (if not better than) your current working pattern allows. Point out some of the ways flexible working will benefit your employer.

Be open to compromise. By all means go in with your ideal wishlist (within reason), but also have in mind a line of where you feel there is potential compromise. Your firm may very well be open to some of it but reluctant to make too many changes in one go so you have to be open to a compromise. You can always approach them again at a later date once you’ve shown how well the first changes are working. 

Be flexible. Show the company that if they’re willing to be flexible with you, you’ll be flexible with them. For example, if you’re suggesting that you work from home part of the week, but you're part of a tiny team and rely on someone being in the office, agree that if any of your team are on annual leave you’ll come in to the office every day that week. Make sure they know that you’ll prioritise the cohesive running of the business over a rigid attitude to contracted hours.

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Tay Associates was established nearly 20 years ago with the mission of being the best recruiter of PA and business support staff in London, and we’ve achieved this by being consistent in our values, attitude and work ethic, but evolving with the market and our clients to stay on top of our game.

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