Your flexible working request needs to be carefully thought through to increase the chances of your employer agreeing to it. The more clarity you have in your own mind about what you are trying to achieve the more successful you are likely to be.
Research, Research, Research
When you are pregnant, before you go on maternity leave, it is very difficult to imagine how you will feel once your baby arrives and the amount of time you will ideally want to spend back in the workplace. But if at all possible, use this time to talk to your employer about potential opportunities for either part time or flexible working so that you at least understand their appetite for such an arrangement.
It is also useful to understand what opportunities your company has on offer for flexible working – this may involve moving to another department or another team so keep in touch with developments when you are off on maternity leave and ask around to see what is available. If you don’t want to stay in the same job but don’t want to work the same hours that you did before, think about what you would ideally like to do but also try to be realistic about what is going to be acceptable for your boss.
You want to put forward a reasonable request to your employer and make sure that you can give a good business reason for allowing you to work the way that you want to.
Work out what flexible working situation will suit you. If your ultimate goal is to spend more time with your child/children, keep this in mind when working out the right flexible working scenario for you. For example, your ideal scenario may be to reduce your hours and work a three day week but if this will not fit the needs of the business that you work for then it might be more sensible to ask to work 3 days from 9am – 3pm. This would still give you more time to spend with your child but also satisfy your employers need for you to be present every day.
Flexibility means different things to different people, for you it might mean:
- Coming in a bit later or leaving a little earlier.
- Being able to work from home when your child is unwell.
- Being able to work different hours during term times and school holidays.
- Perhaps a formal flexible working request is not right for you and it is a more informal arrangement that you need to negotiate with your employer.
Develop Your Proposal
Successful negotiation is all about preparation. When developing your proposal, ask yourself lots of ‘what if’ questions and try to cover every possibility. The more difficult it is for you to answer the question, the more important it is for you to be clear in your own mind how you would respond, before entering into negotiations with your employer.
For example, if you ask to work three days and your employer says no – how will you respond? Will it really be a deal breaker for you and will you need to consider leaving the company? Think of ways to make your proposal appealing to your employer and decide on the minimum conditions that you are willing to accept. There is no harm in asking for the additional conditions that you would consider ‘nice to have’, in fact the ore you have to trade with your employer, the better.
Consider Your Employers Needs
List all the possible scenarios that might come up and think of all the potential outcomes. By doing so in advance you may be able to come up with some creative solutions to help counteract any concerns that your employer has. What will make your proposals more painless to them? This could be a guaranteed date of return or a reduction in pay. If possible, try and position your request as a solution to a problem that already exists within the team.
For example, perhaps there are budget cuts looming, the reduction in your salary associated with your reduced working hours could be one way for the team to address their deficit. Or there may be days of the week when your team is particularly busy, by requesting to work on these days you are helping the team through the busy period but still managing to reduce your hours overall. Keep your line manager informed of what you’re doing, any changes to your terms of employment will directly affect them. By getting them on side and having them as an ally you could well have some vital support when the final decision is made. Once you’ve worked out a flexible working hours proposal, put your case in writing or fill out the more formal ‘the right to request flexible working’ form.
Present Your Proposal
Try to arrange a meeting with your boss so that you can discuss your proposal in person. Maintain a professional stance and try not to be emotional about your request. Ask for what you want in a simple if/then format: if you give me some of what I want, then I can give you some of what you want. Make it a statement rather than a request and be prepared to justify what you’re asking for.
After you have delivered your proposal and you have responded to any questions, sit back quietly and allow them to consider what you have said. Don’t fill the silence with further justifications. You have stated your position and now need your employer to respond. If your employer is still reluctant, suggest a trial period to show that your plan can work – for both of you. Also, if you are negotiating before your maternity leave, ask for a trial period for the new arrangements as it will be very difficult to predict how you will feel about work after you’ve had your baby and that way you can tweak the arrangements if necessary afterwards.
If your employer says no, you can fill out a form to lodge an appeal against your employer’s decision. Ultimately, if you decide that the situation is not going to work for both parties and you decide to resign, have a look at our advice on resigning from your employer. Resign respectfully.