Top tips on applying for flexible working

Some key advice on how to request flexible working.

Work Life Balance


You’re pregnant. You’re happy and spend a lot of your day dreaming of maternity leave [it’s your first child so you don’t know that it isn’t all about sleeping yet; in fact it’s the very opposite].

Suddenly, though, the reality begins to loom and you start to think about what will happen when your maternity leave ends.

You’ve heard about flexible working options, but how do you go about negotiating it with your employer? Here are Workingmums’ top tips for presenting your case.

Check out what your company’s policy on flexible working is. All companies are obliged to consider flexible working, but they are not obliged to agree to every or any request.

However, some companies are more innovative in their policy and may have already trialled different forms of flexible working – from the usual ones of working different shift patterns to cutting your hours.

For instance, they might offer term-time only working, the option of working from home or annualised hours.

Be clear about the hours you want to work and how you want to work them.

  • For instance, could you do some of your work at home in order to cut down on travelling time?
  • Look at your childcare options as well and ensure they fit with your working hours. Can you afford to work part-time?
  • Does working full-time and paying full-time childcare work out to be uneconomical?
  • Can your partner also go part-time so you can split the childcare or picking-up times?

Once you know the hours you want to work and how you want to work them, complete a flexible working application or make a business plan which emphasises the advantages for both you and the company of working this way.

For example, you could say there are aspects of your job – research, reading, data input – that could be done better at home with no other distractions around.

Talk to other people in your company and elsewhere who have negotiated flexible working hours and ask them about their experiences and tips.

Make sure your flexible working request is in writing and give it to your line manager. Be sure to sign and date the letter.

Your employer then has to arrange a meeting with you to discuss your request. Be calm and business-like in your negotiations.

Don’t lose your calm if they turn you down flat [this is actually proof that they are not abiding by the legislation, as they should at least consider your case properly and give you reasonable grounds for turning your request down].

Similarly if they do not reply to your flexible working application, this goes against the legislation.

Try to pre-empt any concerns they have and suggest ways that you would address them. For instance, you could have a compromise suggestion ready or propose that you work the new pattern for a trial period, subject to review. The whole process should take no more than three months.

If you suspect your manager has not followed procedures properly, or has not treated your case reasonably, make an appeal as soon as possible.

Although you have no legal right to do so, Acas’ Code of Practice encourages employees to this. Reasonable grounds for dismissing requests for flexible working include that it would have a detrimental effect on other staff or on the company’s ability to meet customer need.

If this appeal is not successful, you could lodge a claim with an employment tribunal on the grounds of sex discrimination, particularly if the decision forces you to leave your job.


Comments [10]

  • Rachel kenny says:

    I am due to RTW and have requested flexible working I currently work as part of my shift Saturday 2pm -8pm. I have requested to drop this and pick up a 10am-4pm in the week due to childcare and I know even before this is requested this will be declined. I have been out of the business since Nov 2017 and the company have Managed without me during this time. I am lookin for a bit of help putting this across in my application and one of the questions is
    How I think this might affect the business and how I think this could be dealt with.

    (You might not think this will affect the business or you might think that there would be added cost or an impact on your colleagues –please explain this here

    If anyone can help please


    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Rachel,
      The main aim of this part of the flexible working process is to show that you have considered the impact on your employer of your request and possibly thought of how they could deal with it. Is 10am-4pm the busiest time, for instance? Would it work in their favour to have someone around during the busiest time? What could their possible objections be? Would they find it difficult to cover the later hours? You say they have managed without you up till now, but what advantage could they get from you working the hours you have proposed? Is there someone you could swap shifts with who it would suit to do the later hours? It’s just a question of showing you have thought of ways this could impact your employer. They can turn a request down for any of eight reasons –

  • Anon says:


    I made an application in Dec last year before I returned in Feb this year which was turned down. I had to return full time. They said I needed to be onsite 5 days a week and my role didnt lend itself to job sharing. Since I have returned, the workload has doubled if not trebled and I find myself working until 9.30 some nights once I get home. On a day to day basis, they let me work from home etc if I have a short term issue with childcare etc, but I really need to reduce my hours as I am working myself into the ground. I regularly lose half the weekend trying to catch up on sleep thus losing my a;ready limited time with my 1 yr old. I really want to put in another request but I cant see any way it’d get accepted. On another note, there is another lady who does the same role whose kids are at uni (she has no other care responsibilities) and she works part time. This is a historical agreement but still doesn’t stop me feeling bitter. I also end up picking up the work she cant complete in her part time hours. As I can only make 1 request in 12 months, I need to build as strong a case as possible but really cant see how to even start just due to the sheer volume of work. Any help will be much appreciated

  • Prakruti says:

    I am in a full time job, since a year. This is a new job that I took up after returning from maternity. My childcare arrangements are changing and I am applying for flexibility by reducing my working hours i.e. going part time.

    I have talked to my manager verbally and he has asked me to fill in the form and said the application will be considered and decision to be made thereafter. I need help with some questions in the form, could you please guide?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi,I have requested a flexible working but it was been refused.Reason given by my manager is that she consider but it is not operationally possible and she did not elaborate more.She suggested for me to swap shift if there is problem with childcare.But this is not always possible and therefore now causing me a lot of stress.When she refused my application she didn’t told me that I have the right to appeal and on the meeting she didn’t even gave me a choice of bringing work colleague.I felt that I was discriminated and treated unfairly as there are other staff that I noticed is doing flexible working.What do you think should I do?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello. I am seven months pregnant and, after having been asked on many occasions, have told my company that I plan to take six months maternity leave. I have also asked to be able to work from my home office on a Friday when I return to work. to be clear, I am committed to a full time job and am not asking to work reduced hours, but to be home-based on a Friday (when the entire company operates a reduced working pattern of 09:00 to 16:00). My verbal request for this was refused, so I submitted a written request. My meeting is tomorrow and I have a strong feeling that the company will refuse my request. This is despite the fact that many other (almost entirely male) employees work from home on a full-time basis. I plan to appeal the refusal if this happens, but I wondered what my rights are in this situation? I have pointed out that working from home would reduce overheads, and that I have worked from home in previous roles with no impact on quality or quantity of my work. I do not plan to look after my child on my work-from-home day of course, but being home-based would give me more flexibiluty in terms of picking up/dropping off for childcare arrangements. I will offer to do this for a trial period as well. Sorry for rambling, but I don't think this is an unreasonable request. What do you think?

    Editor: I do not know what your job is and if it is a similar role to the home-based men you mention. Your employer can only turn down your request on one of eight grounds and they must show that they have given it due consideration. If you feel that the grounds they have given do not show they have given it due consideration then you can appeal – see:

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, I am due to return to work in Feb '15 following a year on Maternity Leave. I want to request flexible working hours but I know I could not fulfil the job completely in the hours I will be requesting. Changing from 5 days 09:30am to 3:00pm to 3 days (Wed/Thur/Fri) 09:30am to 14:30pm. Within the application I want to recommend that the role is job shared with the person covering my maternity leave whilst they are then also used for another role/s within the company. Is this a reasonable request and what is the liklihood the company would refuse my request? Thanks.

    Editor: Suggesting job shares is one way round the issue of staff wanting to reduce their hours. Proposing it would not be something unique or new and it would show you have given serious consideration to the role and how it can best be done if you cannot do full-time hours. It is a good idea to present this as such – that you would like to reduce your hours, but have considered the role carefully and looked for a solution which would ensure both you and your employer benefit. While they are still quite rare and you might need to 'sell' the benefits to employers who are not used to them and may be wary, they can work out really well for employers if they are well coordinated as they get two people's skills, which can often be complementary. It is worth talking a little about how the job share might work to show you have considered this fully and you could suggest a temporary trial period.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi – my situ is similar to the above – new manager changing the way we work. I have been let down with childcare so am finding new childcare and while i do am working 930-530 instead of 9-5. I always work later and am mostly in by 935, which she has made a point of. She point blank refused the flexi time request, this isnt right. what should i do about this? I went for staggered as knew flexi would get refused, but now i want to change my app to flexi. she is ok with this. she has suggested i work 10-5 and lose pay. I dont want to do this. I have been working flexibly already for 6 months…

    Editor: Can you provide more details? When did you file your flexible working request for staggered hours and what do you mean by this? Is the 10 to 5 pattern something they suggested or you suggested? When you say your flexi time request was turned down was this part of a formal request and what reasons were given?

  • Anonymous says:

    I need help to fill the form based on my medical need

    Editor: Send more information via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have a query regarding flexible working. I have even working for my orient company for just over a year and for most of that been working 9 to 5 instead if 8.30 to 4.30 due to childcare requirements. There is a new manager in place and I am constantly being asked about my hours even though I have explained that I am unable to get in for 8.30 as breakfast club does not start until 8.15 I contacted HR and they have confirmed that the previous manager did not officially notify them of my new start and finish time. If I was to make a formal request in writing would they agree to a permanent change in working hours as I have been doing it anyway?
    Thanking you in advance.

    Editor: If you have been working this way for most of the last year with no problems that should make it more difficult for your employer to reject your request. They can only refuse a flexible working request on eight grounds.

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