The right to request flexible working: Why bother?

We may all know that we have a right to request flexible working from our employers. But that doesn’t mean we do it, perhaps because we find the process daunting or fear rejection. Research suggests, for instance, that for all of the formal flexible working contracts agreed in recent years, there are many more informal arrangements in place.

You need – or want – to work from home more often, for instance. Your performance has always been excellent, so your line manager gives you the nod. Nothing is agreed in writing – in fact the only documentation comes down to regular emails saying, ‘I’ll be working from home tomorrow’.

In many cases, this works fine and dandy. But what happens when you get a new boss, or your company’s taken over, and the new culture doesn’t embrace your flexible approach? Or a large or long-term project comes in that makes such flexibility more difficult?

All of these scenarios can and do happen. And while, legally, a verbal agreement should still hold water, it’s a tricky situation that can come down to pitting your employer’s word against yours. What was really said/agreed in that informal meeting back in the day?

Exercising your right to request formal flexible working can be an important way to determine and protect your future working relationship with your firm.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Make the request in writing stating the date of the request, and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application (employees can only make one request in any 12-month period).
  • Make clear what changes you are seeking (part-time, flexi-hours, homeworking, for instance), and state when you would like the change to take effect.
  • Present a good business case showing how you can make it work in practise, and how it could benefit the business – cutting costs, for example, and improving your performance by enabling you to balance responsibilities/cut commuting time, or whatever.
  • Show willing to partake in regular reviews and be accommodating. If you want three days but your firm wants four, consider accepting that, at least in the short term.

In return, your boss has to fairly consider your request, make a decision within three months of its receipt, and give a sound business reason for rejection. Yes, the thought of your firm turning you down might be off-putting, but assuming you have a good work record it may be less likely than you think. Where good candidates are in short supply, your firm will not want to lose you – especially if you come to the process with an open mind, willing to discuss options.

And when you get your written agreement, you will have the assurance of knowing that you haven’t just won flexibility, but also the security to properly plan your life around your more flexible future.



Agile, Remote working, Time management, Flexible working

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