How to get your flexible working request approved

HR expert Anna Ives has over 10 years’ experience as a fully qualified HR expert and has helped 100s of women with all things flexible working. Here she shares with you her insider knowledge on how to get your flexible working approved.

Making a flexible working request


What is a mothers first thought about returning to work after maternity leave? It is likely to be “how am I going to return to work now I have another human being to look after, who I need to put ahead of myself.”

Most women will find doing the same hours they worked before having a child is not an option that they wish to pursue. At the very least, some form of flexibility is required.

The benefits of flexible working

For some reason, a large percentage of our employers do not understand the benefits of flexible working. Therefore, I often find myself trying to persuade managers to allow women to have some form of flexibility at work. Managers often give excuses when rejecting flexible working requests such as:

  • There isn’t anyone to cover the day/s off you want
  • If I let her do it, then the whole department will want to do it
  • I can’t afford to pay someone else to do the work for that day/s
  • That job just won’t work with someone not at their desk 9-5, Monday to Friday.

Although legally these reasons don’t come under the eight that must be stated when rejecting a flexible working application*, they are reasons I hear coming directly from managers or via individuals I have spoken to.

So, how can you get your manager to see the benefits and allow you to have some flexibility, so you can come back to work and spend time with your child/children?

Consider flexible working patterns carefully

The best approach is to consider a pattern that would work for you and your work (and I mean really consider). Is that working three days a week, working compressed hours, working from home, term time working, early start or finish or working a nine-day fortnight?

Then, think of another pattern that would work, and if you can, think of a third.

Think about how the pattern will fit in with your job. Do you know others who have the same day off you would like? Are there any particular meetings on the days you want off? Then avoid them. Think ahead about any reasons for rejection and try to cut them off.

Making the application

Try speaking to your manager informally –  you never know, you might just get the pattern you are looking for without going down the formal route.

On the flexible working form, it will ask questions that are alluding to the negative impacts of your requested pattern on your work colleagues and your work in general. Do not state the negatives, state the positives! Have a look at the Timewise power 50 list. There are lots of individuals in really senior positions who work for some big branded employers part time. If it can work for them, show how it can work for you too.

If all else fails ask for a trial period. I would always advise asking for a trial period of at least six months. You can always work backwards if needs be. Six months will give you and your manager a chance to prove that this pattern can work for you both or settle upon a pattern that will. It will also give your child/children time to settle into your chosen pattern of childcare; anything less might have an impact on this.

Finally, if there is an option to appeal use it. Legally employers do not have to offer an appeal, although it is best practice to do so. Plus, how much better would you feel knowing you gave it your all?

Eight legal reasons for a flexible working application rejection

*The eight legal business reasons for rejecting a flexible working application are:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural change to the business.

Bear these in mind when writing up your application – you want to position it such that you have considered ways to mitigate all these effects, making it difficult for them to (legally) say no.

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