How to ask for flexibility if your manager is not keen

Flexible Working


You want to ask for some homeworking or reduce your hours, but you know your line manager is not keen. So how do you increase your chances of success?

Consider why you want flexible working

First, you need to be clear on why you want flexible working and what kind of flexibility will work best for you.  Is it an ad hoc kind of flexibility – the ability to come in late some days or leave early or work from home when necessary? If so, an informal arrangement may be best for you. If you want to permanently reduce your hours, change your shift pattern or location then you will need to go the formal route and make a formal flexible working request. This will change your terms and conditions and so it will be more difficult to change them back if you want to at a later date.

Communicate what you want clearly and take on board the implications for your employer

Once you know how you want to work, it is a good idea to think through what your line manager’s objections might be.  Within the flexible working legislation, there are eight grounds on which an employer can reject a flexible working request. They are fairly loose so check them out here. Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. Examples of this include handling requests in a reasonable manner include: assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application; holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee; and offering an appeal process.

As part of the formal process there is a requirement to make a business case for your flexible working and this needs to be clearly communicated. It means considering the impact of your request on your employer and addressing any concerns, showing how your work can successfully be carried out under the proposed new working pattern, demonstrating that it will not harm the business and may even have business advantages.

This may involve sounding out colleagues beforehand to ensure they are on side. If requesting remote working, it may be that there are parts of a job that can be done more effectively from home without distraction, such as analysis, reading, strategic thinking or writing reports.For job shares, it is worth putting forward how this might work in terms of handovers, communication with team members or clients and so forth and researching examples of successful job share partnerships. For part-time work, it is important to think through whether there are certain days or hours which need less cover. Are there certain tasks that could be delegated allowing other staff the chance to act up?

It is important to come up with solutions to possible objections or problems.

Offer flexibility in return

You may have to offer some form of flexibility in return, for example, offering to take calls or come in if there are any emergencies on days you are not in. It may be necessary to make clear what form such an emergency might take, spelling this out in examples, so that you are not essentially working every week on your day off. You could also negotiate some Time Off In Lieu if you do have to come in.  Flexible working often works best when there is flexibility on both sides.

You could also consider how you present a request to your employer, for instance, suggesting term-time only working might be more likely to put your manager against your proposal than saying, for instance, that you want to work a 92% contract, including most school holidays. Also, do you need all the holidays off? Could you, for instance, come in for a couple of weeks during the summer holidays and agree to keep in touch with the office in case of emergencies and so you are not deluged when you return? Only you know your job and its demands and what would work best.

Trial periods and support

If  your manager is still dubious, it might be worth suggesting a trial period, but ensure there is a proper review process.

If your manager is still being intransigent and you feel that they have handled your request unfairly, you should seek support in the form of employment rights specialists, such as Acas and Citizens Advice. has a panel of legal experts who can provide advice on next steps.

Comments [2]

  • L says:

    I’m due to return to work from maternity later this year. I was planning on resigning and looking for a new role as they’ve always been so against wfh and I knew I would have no chance. However now due to the pandemic, my department is one of the only ones that hasn’t been furloughed, and my maternity cover is having to WFH. So suddenly the job that couldn’t be performed at he, now can. We’re a very small office and I’ve been there many years (10+) I don’t want to come across as argumentative and I don’t want to upset them, but I do wish to make a request and have it taken seriously. I requested a change to my contract 5 years ago and that was handled very badly, many comments made were very discriminatory but in their defence we didn’t have any hrto deal with these requests. If I do request to be able to WFH and they refuse, can I ask to made redundant?

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, you can ask to work from home through a flexible working application and this would represent a permanent change to your contract, if approved. However, your employer can turn that down for any of eight reasons. Given the current situation, they may, for instance, negotiate and suggest that it be a temporary measure subject to review. It would be up to you if you agreed this. If you did not, you would still be able to return to your role on your previous work pattern. As your employer does not seem to have offered redundancy up to now it is unlikely you could claim redundancy as your role is still there and they would still need someone to do it.

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