How To Request Flexible Working and Sell The Benefits

Flexible working essentially means any change to your usual work patterns. This could be things like changing from full-time to part-time work, adjusting your shifts or working your same hours but over fewer days. You may also be able to job share, have time off in lieu or work term-time only. It really depends on what your job is. Before actually submitting your request, it’s a good idea to work out exactly what you would like to happen and put a case together for your boss and/or HR department which accurately sells it to them.

Why is flexible working on the rise ? 

Flexible working is said to be on the rise for many different reasons. With the cost of living being higher than ever, many parents feel they would like to continue to financially support their families but don’t want to work the full-time hours that they used to. Also as childcare is so expensive, it is a good way to reduce the number of hours children need to spend in nursery or with a childminder. The advancement of technology also means that online working away from the office is much easier than ever before.

Why is it beneficial to both workers and employers?

Flexible working has increased hugely in popularity over the last decade and it’s easy to see why. For employers, it is said to mean reduced absenteeism, increased morale, and the ability to retain high quality staff who may otherwise have needed to leave. From an employee’s point of view, a good flexible arrangement can help to reduce childcare costs as well as provide a much improved work/life balance, especially for parents with young children.


Different types of flexible working

  • Job sharing
  • Working from home
  • Compressed hours
  • Part-time work
  • Flexitime
  • Staggered hours
  • Annualised hours

Summary of the law around flexible working

Once you’ve worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more, you’re then entitled to make a request for flexible working. Bear in mind though that it’s still not something you have an automatic right to, it’s just that you now have the right to ask.

You should expect your request to be dealt with reasonably and your employer should want to speak to you face-to-face about it. They should also come to a decision within three months of your request being made. Remember though that your application may be turned down for certain business reasons, like additional costs or a possible negative impact on day-to-day working.

Getting the response you want

When you make a formal written request for flexible working, you need to make your application sound professional and positive.

  • Treat it almost like a job interview. Sell your idea, and think through any questions you might be asked beforehand.
  • Do your research, use our reviews of parents who have success stories of flexible working in similar industries to help sell your case.
  • Politely remind them that you’re applying under your statutory right to request flexible working.
  • Explain to your employer how you believe flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with. For example, who could cover on the days you’re not working?
  • Explain how you see it working and when you would like to start.
  • Make sure your written application is signed and dated by you.
  • It may be that your original request does not work for the business, so you may have to be open to discussing another form of flexible working from the list above.

Selling the benefits

  • Flexible working is shown to have a proven benefit for productivity, morale and happiness. According to Vodafone’s Flexible Working Survey, 61% of companies increased profit and 83% of companies improved productivity.
  • Happy and motivated staff are more productive, and higher productivity means higher profits. They also engage with clients better and provide high quality client service, resulting in a positive impact on the business’s ability to win business and retain clients.
  • Reduces the costs to the business of absent employees. According to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of turnover per employee (earning £25,000 a year or more) is £30,614.
  • Improves employee retention – 31% of employees would choose flexible working over a pay rise.
  • Embracing flexibility will make the company more attractive to an increased diverse talent pool, especially those with families.


What can I do if I don’t get the response I was hoping for?

Your employer should give you an explanation if they turn down your request for flexible working. There are a number of reasons they may refuse your request.

Employers can only refuse your request if there is a business reason for doing so, which has to be one of the following:

  • Your plan to work flexibly will cost the business money.
  • They don’t feel there’s enough work for you to do during the hours you’re planning to work.
  • You may not work to the best of your ability.
  • Recruiting staff to cover will create problems.
  • Customer demand may not be met.
  • Standards of quality may suffer.
  • The business is planning some large structural changes.

If you think that your employer has unfairly dismissed your application for flexible working, there are a few things you can do:

  • Lodge an appeal.
  • Launch a grievance.
  • Claim constructive dismissal.
  • Make a claim for unfair discrimination.
  • Escalate your request to ACAS or the Labour Relations Agency.
  • Appeal to the employment tribunal.

If you’re still not sure of the best way forward, why not take a look at the Citizens Advice website for more information.