Another great article courtesy of The Guardian:
Flexible working is on the rise but how do you approach it with your boss? Our panel of experts share their advice
Hankering to work from home more often or rejig your hours so they fit in better with your lifestyle? Here’s what you need to know:
You can apply for flexible working after 26 weeks
It’s worth noting that everyone who has racked up 26 weeks of service is entitled to make a formal request for flexible working with their employer. “You have the right to make a request for flexible work and your employer can only refuse for certain legal reasons,” says Katie Wood, a legal officer for charity Maternity Action. “This means any request for changes to your days of work, hours of work or place of work.”
Wood advises giving your employer plenty of time to consider your request and make necessary changes. “Try to ask at least three to four months before you need the change and make sure your employer deals with it in a reasonable timescale.” It’s important to point out that your employer must consider your request reasonably and within three months so make sure it doesn’t get ignored or forgotten about, she adds.
Consider it from your employer’s perspective too
You know what flexible working would mean for you, but consider the potential impact on your employer. Before you organise a meeting with your boss, think hard about what will work for both you and them, says Catherine Rogan, a rights adviser for Working Families’ legal advice service. “Something that benefits everyone is more likely to be agreed. Listen to your employer’s concerns and think about how you can make things work for everyone.”
Jessica Chivers, founder of The Talent Keeper Specialists, says having informal discussions before submitting the formal request asking for a trial “may make all the difference in getting to a yes”.
Making work changes during parental leave
If you’re about to return from parental leave and are keen to change your hours or work from home, Wood says it is a good idea to flag it up to three months before returning if possible to allow your employer to make changes. “When thinking about how to approach it from your employer’s point of view it’s important to focus on the practical issues. What problems might arise? How does it fit with your role, work and colleagues? Your employer must give your request reasonable consideration, which usually means holding a meeting to discuss it. So you will need to think in advance of any issues they are likely to raise and how to reassure them that it will work well for the business.”
Jo Martin, a senior employment law specialist at solicitor Bond Dickinson, says it helps to have an initial, frank chat with your manager and tell them you want your job to fit around childcare, but also that you want them to know you remain committed to your role. “There is no duty upon you to say this, but it can help keep the relationship smooth,” she says. “Ask them what they think and if they have any concerns. If they do, consider how you can deal with those concerns pragmatically. Procedurally, there are formal steps to follow when you are ready to make your written request, easily found online – Acas has a good website covering this.”
Dealing with an inflexible boss
If your employer is unsure about whether to agree to any changes, consider the concerns they have raised, and find sensible, meaningful answers for them, says Martin. “Perhaps point out the value of reducing their overheads for expensive office space by having a remote working system in place. You could suggest a pattern in which you work partly remotely and partly in the office, so their worries around a precedent and office culture are addressed.
Challenging a rejected request
While flexible working can be refused by employers, there is the opportunity to take further action. If an employer refuses every single request and some of the refusals don’t seem justified, it may be that there is an underlying blanket policy against flexible work, which could potentially be challenged in an employment tribunal as it may be discriminatory, says Wood. “Employees have the right to appeal a refusal and can go to Acas, which will help the employer and employee reach an agreement. If an employee wants to challenge a refusal in a tribunal they must make the claim within three months, less one day, from the date of the first refusal.”
Leave time to switch off at home
If you are fortunate to work flexible hours and remotely, it can be difficult to separate work and home life. “If you like structure and boundaries you could stick to your normal work pattern as much as possible but enjoy the benefit of not commuting and do something else with that time instead,” says Chivers. “My husband, for instance, works from home most Thursdays and walks the dog during the time he’d be commuting in the morning. He takes a lunch break away from his home desk and eats and does something in the garden, then walks the dog and listens to a podcast again at the end of the day when he’d be commuting home.”