9 tips for making a flexible working request

Here are our top nine tips to consider when making a flexible working request. The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 gave employees with more than 26 weeks’ service the right to apply for a flexible working arrangement in the UK. An application can be made to the same employer once each year.

For every flexible working request that is agreed, we hear about so many more that are rejected.  The employer has to give a reason why the flexible working request is turned down, based on at least one of the following reasons:

  • planned structural changes
  • the burden of additional costs
  • quality or standards will suffer
  • they won’t be able to recruit additional staff
  • performance will suffer
  • won’t be able to reorganise work among existing staff
  • will struggle to meet customer demand
  • lack of work during the periods you propose to work.

And once a request is rejected this can become a huge issue for the employee as it can have an impact on your relationship with your employer.

We know that the majority of people welcome degrees of flexibility in their working arrangements – and that a lot of employers proudly promote their flexible working credentials – so how do the two marry together for you when you are looking to make a specific request for flexible working?

Whether you are returning to work following maternity leave, want to reduce your commuting time by working from home, need to adjust your normal working hours to accommodate nursery or school collection or tie in with other parenting and caring responsibilities, here’s our top 9 tips for making a convincing flexible working request:


1. Treat your request as a business proposition

In making a decision to accept your flexible working request, your employer will need to be convinced that it is workable from a business perspective.  Take some time to consider the impact to your employer of your request.  What adjustments and changes will they need to make to accommodate your request? Work through the list of justifiable reasons above that the employer could use to reject your request – is your application likely to fall into any of these areas? Show in your application that you have considered the situation from your employer’s point of view as well as your own.


2. Know your organisation’s culture and general approach to flexible working

This may involve a bit of research, but some employers will be more open to flexible working requests than others.  Does your employer generally accept flexible working requests?  Do many other employees have flexible arrangements? Does your organisation have a flexible working policy and any guidelines?  Is the concept of flexible working alien to your organisation? How did your employer adjust working practices during the pandemic?

If they fall into the flexible-friendly category, refer to this and their common practices in your request.  If there is a lack of evidence of embracing flexibility, you are potentially asking for something that they have not had to deal with before, and so you may need to be prepared to create a more compelling business case.


3. Know your reasons and motivation for making the request

Why do you want to change your working arrangements?  What will it give you?  These may be for very personal reasons, such as wanting to spend quality time with young children, collect your children from school or nursery at particular times, cut out your commuting time, be more productive by working from home, give you more time to care for an elderly relative, pursue another interest … whatever it is, your employer is unlikely to want to know all the details.  They just need to be convinced that you are committed to contributing and performing well in your job role.  When we become a parent or carer it can become all-consuming. When you submit a flexible working request you are doing this in your professional employee role – not wearing your parent or carer hat. Write your request rationally rather than emotionally.


4. Prepare for a negotiation

In knowing your reasons for wanting to request flexible working arrangements, whether it is around the hours that you work, the way in which you work or your place of work, think about your ideal arrangements and then think about what you are prepared to compromise on, if they are not workable for your employer following your initial request.  Demonstrating some flexibility around your request, taking into account your own needs, along with those of your employer, will show greater commitment and understanding.


5. Link your request to your longer-term career ambitions

You may be making this request at a time when you are taking your foot off the accelerator on your career progression whilst balancing changing new family responsibilities, but link this to your longer-term career ambitions – think of your career as being a long game. Showing your commitment to your longer-term career and longer-term contribution to your employer is likely to make your request more compelling. Show your commitment to continuing to learn and develop in your role and function.


6. Consider who the decision makers are

Is this a decision being made by your HR department, line manager, departmental Director, business owner? If you are not sure, then ask the question so that you can ensure that you take into account any objections they may have.  Whilst they are making a business decision, there will always be a subjective and emotional element in reaching a conclusion.  Position your request in a way that will take into account their preferred way of communicating, their likely personal beliefs about your request as well as the business case.


7. Consider requesting a meeting to discuss in addition to a paper/electronic application

We recommend arranging an informal meeting with the decision-makers as part of your flexible working request.  By doing this you are able to present your case personally.  We strongly advise you do this from a position of power and authority (confidently spoken, strong posture and prepared – rather than with apology and lacking in confidence). If you are returning from family-related leave such as maternity, paternity, shared family leave, adoption or caring leave, we encourage you to have a face to face meeting to discuss the arrangements for your return.


8. If you’re application is rejected, then appeal

You have the right to appeal against an application that is rejected.  We strongly advise you to consider appealing against this decision, which will go to a more senior leader to hear.  Consider the reasons why your employer has rejected your application, make any necessary changes to your request that you are able to accommodate and carry through on your appeal.


9. And, if all else fails, consider whether you need to become a trailblazer

If your request is turned down or you don’t feel as though you have been treated fairly and reasonably through the process, consider whether you have the energy and passion to become a trailblazer for change within your organisation.

We’re at a stage where there is a huge call for many more employers to embrace flexible working. Some employers and certain sectors and professions are leading the way on flexible working, whereas other organisations are dragging their heels.  Do you want to make a stand for change in your organisation?

If your request is turned down and either the employer’s flexible working policy hasn’t been followed properly or you’ve been given inadequate reasons for why it has been rejected, you may have a case to pursue through an employment tribunal.  Seek further legal advice – ACAS, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Pregnant then Screwed are great starting points.

You may also want to contact the recruiters listed here – they are all recruiters who specialise in recruiting people on a flexible basis.


We do hope by following our top tips your request for flexible working is successful.

If you would benefit from further support in preparing your flexible working request and helping you to feel more resourceful through the process, contact us for cost-effective coaching support such as our Confidence Booster one-off session for £75.00.

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