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Flexible working - planning what changes to ask for

This advice applies to England

Before you ask for flexible working, there are a number of things you should consider. These include thinking about your organisation's approach to flexible working, how flexible your current job could be and your own temperament. You also need to think about what financial implications a change to your existing working pattern will have.

This page tells you the main things you should consider before making your request.

Top tips

People who already work flexibly recommend that you:

  • show you are organised and good at planning ahead
  • get the support of your colleagues and consider their needs too
  • be willing to be flexible about your arrangements sometimes
  • have a positive approach and be willing to suggest alternative solutions if problems arise
  • find a supportive line manager.

What are your existing working arrangements?

What does your employer offer already? What are your existing working arrangements and what changes do they allow? If you teach in a school, your options for flexibility during the working day will be more limited than if you work in an office with minimal supervision or contact with clients or customers.

The following questions may help you think about your current arrangements:

  • what do you do?
  • what is your current working pattern?
  • what hours do you work at the moment?
  • are these regular?
  • what kind of flexibility do you have now?
  • where do you work?
  • could you work elsewhere, for example, from home or from a local office?
  • are you part of a team?
  • does your work involve face-to-face meetings?
  • does your work involve being available to members of the public at specific times?
  • do you need someone else to provide you with work?
  • are your current arrangements putting you at a disadvantage because of your age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation?

How do you prefer to work?

Not all types of flexible working suit everyone. The following questions may help you identify what suits you best or stop you being put at a disadvantage:

  • do you work better at certain times of the day?
  • do you enjoy working on your own?
  • can you do your work away from your workplace?
  • can you work with colleagues and customers remotely, for example, by using email, Skype, tele- or video-conferencing?
  • are there set tasks that you can do more efficiently out of the workplace, free from interruptions?
  • are you self-motivating and able to work to deadlines on your own?
  • do you need to work with other people to get your job done?
  • do you need a team to bounce ideas off for stimulus?
  • do you need the routine of the work environment to keep you focussed?
  • does most of your work involve face-to-face meetings?
  • do you like to keep work and home completely separate?
  • if you reduce your hours, will you end up doing a full-time job on a part-time salary?

What would you like your working arrangements to be?

The following questions may help you identify your preferred working arrangements:

  • what would be your ideal option right now?
  • do you want to work fewer hours with less pay or keep the same hours and pay but work more flexibly to fit in with other commitments?
  • would a little flexibility make all the difference, for example, flexible start and finish times or occasional home working?
  • would a temporary change in hours help?
  • should having fixed hours instead of unpredictable hours or rotating shifts help?
  • is a permanent reduction in hours your only option?
  • what about taking a short career break or a sabbatical?
  • what might stop you going forward with this?

What back-up arrangements do you have?

How flexible can you be with your proposed new working arrangements? The following questions may help you:

  • will you need to think about back-up arrangements, such as childcare, or can you be totally flexible about when you can work?
  • are your back-up arrangements flexible enough to deal with occasional work demands outside your normal routine?
  • do your back-up arrangements reflect your working hours and the flexibility needed in your role?
  • how would you deal with emergencies?
  • what support do you have at home?
  • if you are asking for flexible working because of caring responsibilities, is there anyone who can share those responsibilities with you? Can they ask for flexible working too?

How will flexible working affect your finances?

Changing your working pattern may also have an impact on your finances, benefits, career and family life. You need to think about how you would cope with less money to ensure that whatever change you choose won’t make things worse elsewhere in your life.

Do you need to be able to earn a certain amount of money?

If so, you may not be able to afford to cut your hours. You will have to look for a type of flexible working which allows you to keep working the same number of hours and earning the same money but doing so in a way which can fit around your other responsibilities.

Do you need to be able to work a certain number of hours?

If so, this will affect the types of flexible working you can choose. For example, to be eligible for Working Tax Credit, you have to work a certain number of hours each week.

Future financial implications

You also need to consider any future financial implications of the change in working patterns. For example, if you change from working full-time to part-time, this will also affect any occupational pension and any redundancy pay you may be entitled to in the future.

Can you afford not to do anything?

What if the situation doesn’t change? What are the advantages of keeping the same working pattern you have now? For example, can you develop your career, or increase your income?

What are the disadvantages of keeping the same working pattern? For example, will trying to juggle your work and home responsibilities affect your health or wellbeing?

Talking to colleagues

It is a good idea to talk to your colleagues to see how a change in your working pattern may affect them. You should do this before you contact your employer so that you can try to overcome any potential problems in advance. If you win their support, this will strengthen your case. Some of them may have had a request to work flexibly allowed or refused in the past and their experience may be useful for you in planning your request.

Next steps

Flexible working – how to make a request

Flexible working – negotiation

Flexible working - discrimination

Flexible working - further help

Other useful information

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