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Ask Liz: How do I approach a conversation about flexible working?

Ask Liz: How do I approach a conversation about flexible working?
I've worked full time as a New Business Director for 5 years and would like to approach my line manager about reducing my hours from 5 days to 4 days so I can care for a sick parent. Can you offer any advice on how I should prepare for this discussion?

I am very sorry to hear that you are in this situation.

There is a lot of advice available to you from various organisations and I have listed these at the end of my response. The first thing you need to do is get a hold of your staff handbook and find out what your agency/company policy is so that you are clear about the process you need to follow.  

To keep it simple and practical, the legal position is:

You can apply to work a flexible working pattern that is different to your current working pattern under the right provided under section 80F of the Employment Rights Act 1996. You have this right to apply/ask for a flexible working pattern, but there is no automatic right to have the request accepted.  You will first need to confirm that you meet each of the eligibility criteria as follows:

  • You have worked continuously as an employee of the company for the last 26 weeks
  • You have not made a request to work flexibly under this right during the past 12 months

You will also need to supply dates of any previous request to work flexibly under this right.

You will need to give some thought to how a flexible working pattern may impact on the needs of the business and the measures that you can put into place to ensure that the business is not adversely affected. As you're a client lead, you may to want to think about how this change of working pattern may impact client servicing and the communications which may be required. I would suggest that you also speak with your director to update them on your circumstances and advise them that you will be making a formal flexible working request. This change of working pattern does need to go through a process.

To help you with this, here are some tips on making a statutory application for flexible working.
It must:

  • Be in writing
  • Be dated
  • State that it is a statutory request for flexible working
  • Set out the working pattern you are asking for and the date on which you would like it to start
  • Explain how the proposed change would affect your employer and colleagues and how you think any changes might be dealt with
  • State whether you have made a previous application for flexible working to your employer, and if so, when
  • Say if you are making a request because you are put at a disadvantage because of your age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. For example, asking for flexibility as a reasonable adjustment to help with a disability
  • Say why you are making your request, if you think it will help. For example, if you need help with caring arrangements. However, you don’t have to say why you are making a request if you don’t want your employer to know.

Here is a list of organisations that can offer advice on workplace related issues:



Citizens Advice 

Working Families

Cambridge House

Last updated 02/06/2016

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