One of the greatest changes at work in the last 20 years has been the growing acceptance of flexible working patterns.
Long gone are the days when we all clocked in at 9am and knocked off at 5pm regardless of the demands of family and personal life.
And with growing diversity in the workplace, and the welcome acceptance of women as an equal and valued part of the workforce, it’s never been more important for companies to recognise the need for flexibility in their working patterns.
So, if you want to adjust your work-life balance, how should you go about asking your employer?
The first thing to recognise is that if you have caring responsibilities – whether for elderly parents, your children, disabled relatives or other dependents – there are legal rights in place to help ensure you can meet them whilst still holding down a job.
Maternity and paternity rights are now enshrined in law, and it’s common practice among many employers to go beyond these in their own arrangements. That means it’s a good idea to check well in advance what provisions for such leave are in place where you work, and how you would fit in around them.
On top of this, all employees have a legal right to ask for flexible working once they have served six months at their company. These requests should be made in writing and can only be submitted once every 12 months. But an employer can only turn them down if there is a sound business reason for doing so.
When you make your request, you should state when you want your flexible working to start, what you think the impact on the business will be, and whether the request is being made in relation to any current legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010, as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.
Once you have submitted your request, it’s good practice for your employer to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss your suggestion. Although not required by law, it may well be that your company will allow you to invite a workplace colleague or union representative to this meeting to help you out.
You might also want to discuss whether any change would require a permanent or temporary change to your contract at this stage.
Business reasons for refusing a request must be made from the following list:
- the burden of additional costs
- an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- an inability to recruit additional staff
- a detrimental impact on quality
- a detrimental impact on performance
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
- a planned structural changes to the business.
If the company turns down your request, ask for an informal meeting to discuss the reasons why and see if they can be resolved in an amicable way.
If that fails, you should go through the company’s internal grievance procedure before calling in your union or an independent mediator.
And if all that fails, it might be possible to refer the case to the Acas Arbitration Scheme or an employment tribunal.
And of course, if you need any help or advice then we can offer a free consultation to go through the specific details of your situation and recommend the appropriate action.