Springhouse sets out its top tips for making a flexible working request to your employer. Flexible working can mean many things: part-time work, job sharing, working from home, compressed hours, term-time working. Flexible working is associated with an improved work-life balance for the individual. However, it also has benefits for an employer as it has been found to lead to greater job satisfaction, improved loyalty and is recruitment positive.
Estimates suggest that women with dependants are three and a half times more likely to work part-time than men with dependants. This in turn leads to a gap in average pay between men and women (the gender pay gap), as part-time jobs tend to be lower paid roles and workers are likely to sacrifice career progression when they go part-time.
Men can also face stigma in the workplace if they request part-time work (or other flexible arrangements) as they are traditionally regarded as providers rather than carers – which is seen more as a female role. Anecdotally, men who make flexible working requests are more likely to be turned down than women. Pressure is slowly mounting on employers to increase flexible working options for all staff, but particularly those who are fathers who want to be more involved with bringing up their children.
1. Check your employer’s flexible working policy
Check your employer’s staff handbook or intranet to see if it has its own flexible working policy. If so, this should set out what you have to do to make a request; follow this to the letter. For example, meeting any stated timescale, providing all the information requested and sending to the right person/department. And make sure your employer follows it’s own policy too!
2.Make sure your request is in writing
Don’t worry if your employer doesn’t have its own flexible working policy – the law lays down a framework which you should follow. A formal flexible working request can be made by any employee (regardless of whether they have children or need to care for an elderly relative) BUT only once they have been employed for 26 weeks. Requests to work flexibly must be in writing, be dated and state the date of any previous request to your employer.
3. Less is not more
Although it is likely that your employer will invite you to a meeting to discuss your application in more detail, it can be really useful to put as much information into your request as possible so that everything is recorded and your employer can have a chance to consider it in depth. Therefore your application should include the following information:
- what change your are requesting e.g. different hours, part-time days, home working etc.
- when you want this to take effect
- why you personally want/need the change and the effect it will have on your work
- how you think this will affect the business . This may be a positive affect such as increased efficiency or money saving. If you think the change may have a negative effect then try and come up with ideas to mitigate this. If you think the change will be neutral then say so.
- Whether the request is in relation to the Equality Act 210, for example it is a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.
4. You only get “one bite of the cherry” every 12 months
You can only make one request every 12 months so it pays to take a bit of time over your request, do your homework and get it right – otherwise you will be waiting a while before you can ask again.
5. Remember it’s a permanent change
Unless you agree on a time limited change (and most employers will probably be reluctant to do so) remember that what you are actually asking for when you make a flexible working request is a permanent change to your terms and conditions – so you won’t be able to revert to your current terms at a later date.
6. Stand in your employer’s shoes
An employer can only turn down a request to work flexibly on eight grounds which are laid down by law. These are:
- the burden of additional costs
- inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- inability to recruit additional staff
- detrimental impact on quality
- detrimental impact on performance
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- insufficient work for periods employee proposes to work
- planned structural changes to the business
It is not acceptable for the employer to say it has a policy that “everyone at a certain level” must work full-time or that it simply “wants everyone in the office”. Some employers or particular managers may be prejudiced against the idea of flexible working but this is not a legitimate reason to turn down your request.
So try and anticipate what your employer may find problematic about your request and come up with some solutions to try and overcome its concerns. If your employer is nervous, be prepared to have a trial period to show it can work in practice.
7. Keep an eye on the clock
An employer must decide upon any request within 3 months of receipt and this time limit includes hearing any appeal. So, keep an eye on the calendar and chase up your application, reminding your employer about the timescale, if you haven’t heard anything.
In October 2017 the Prime Minister made a speech about closing the gender pay gap in which she called for companies to advertise all jobs as flexible from day one, unless there are solid business reasons not to. The statutory right to request flexible working is due to be reviewed in 2019 so it is possible we may see some changes to the legislation along these lines in the future.