A decade ago, flexible working was considered something of a perk.
Nowadays, with smartphones, tablets and laptops, more and more of us manage to carve out arrangements that allow us to work flexibly in some shape or form.
This might mean working one day per week from home, staggering the commute or doing longer hours four days to knock off earlier on the fifth.
A lot of these will be ad-hoc, informal arrangements. But if you want to put your flexible working arrangement on a more permanent footing, it’s going to be a question of making a formal request to your employer.
The good news is that, in the UK at least, as of the end of June 2014 new rules are being introduced that give all workers with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service in their job a “right to request” to work flexibly.
This will extend the previous regulations, which only covered those with children aged under 17 (or under 18 if disabled) or those who had caring responsibilities.
It will mean employees will able to request a change to their working hours, working time or work location.
However, before everyone dashes to the boss’ office, it’s worth pausing for a moment.
First, you need to recognise this is only a right to “request.” Your employer will still be able to say “no” if they can argue there is a legitimate business reason for doing.
Second, be aware what you’re asking for is a permanent change to your terms and conditions, which may affect your take-home pay and pension contributions, so you need to be absolutely sure it’s what you want.
Thirdly, you can only make one application in a 12-month period. So, here are four ways to maximise your chances.
1. Understand what it is you are asking for
Flexible working is defined as:
- Part-time working or staggered hours
- Job sharing
- Working from home or remotely
- Compressed hours (for example fitting a five-day week into four)
- Term-time or annualised working (in other words, taking paid or unpaid leave during school holidays or just working a certain number of hours a year)
So you need to think through what you are requesting, and why.
2. Put yourself in their shoes
Employers can give a number of grounds for refusing requests, including:
- Additional costs or inability to reorganise work
- Inability to recruit additional staff or detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance or customer demand
- Insufficient work for those periods
- An upcoming planned structural change to the business
If it’s likely your employer is going to cite one of these you need to pre-empt them and working out a viable (possibly even costed) solution.
3. Make it formal
Both the government and the conciliation service Acas recommend you put your request in writing.
This is to ensure you have a proper “paper trail” in the event of any dispute, plus it means all sides should be clear as to what is actually being requested.
Your employer should request a meeting within 28 days to discuss the application and a decision should be made within 14 days of this meeting.
4. Be specific
It is sensible to detail as specifically as possibly how it is you want to work flexibly. So outline what you’d like your proposed hours to be, and how this will be a change.
Show you recognise how this change will affect not only your role but those of your colleagues and the wider business. Ideally you should be showing how this will predominantly be beneficial, but you should also highlight how you intend to mitigate any negatives.
If your request is refused consider whether the decision was fair, whether you could have presented your case differently and, if you’re still keen, how you’ll approach it next time.
You may well be able to appeal, but you’ll need to think carefully about how that might affect your wider workplace relationship.
Nic Paton writes for Glassdoor.com.