Some key advice on how to request flexible working.
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.
1. 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.
2. 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?
3. 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.
4. Talk to other people in your company and elsewhere who have negotiated flexible working hours and ask them about their experiences and tips.
5. Make sure your flexible working request is in writing and give it to your line manager. Be sure to sign and date the letter.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.