Flexible working - what to consider


Woman going through filesWork when you've got parental responsibilities is a different ballgame to work before kids. Give yourself time to see how the new parenting-plus-work logistics work out, but one option you might want to consider is to ask for flexibility from your employer about when you actually do what you're paid to do.

You have a right to request flexible working if you have a child/children aged under 18.

If you want to ask your employer to allow you to work flexibly (which might mean later starts or working from home) then you have the right to have your request taken seriously by your employer.

Note the distinction: you have the right to ask for flexible working, not the right to have it. Your application for flexible working has to be written, signed and dated.

Your employer isn't obliged to allow your request, but he (or she) is obliged to follow a proper procedure, including meeting you. He or she has to stick to a timetable and give you a right to appeal if your request is refused.

Your employer must give the reasons for refusing in writing - and the reasons must be 'business' reasons, such as that it would cost them a lot more, or that your request would have a detrimental effect on customer service. Acas has more details about the ins and outs of this process.

"Try to get flexible working if your job suits. Everyone has the right to ask their employer to consider it. I work 95.5 hours a month, over three days, but it does not have to be X-am to Y-pm, just needs to add up every month (as long as I am in during 'core' hours)." BikeRunSki

Things to think about before you request flexible working

One Mumsnetter, slipperthief, says: "I didn't go back full time but my ex-boss was fine about flexi start times and occasional home working. You need to demonstrate that you've thought things through so your work/the business won't be affected, such as: 

  • How you'd comunicate from home, including input into meetings on your home days?
  • How you'd keep your boss/rest of the team up to date with your workload, especially if someone had to cover some of it if DC were ill?
  • How you'll make up your hours eg if you get delayed in traffic?
  • IT things, such as software.
  • Whether you could be flexible about what days you're in the office? So could attend meetings with enough notice?"

Directgov has a tool for helping you put together a case for flexible working




You need to think about what you might suggest to your employer about how to cover the remainder of your tasks. Simply suggesting that your colleagues have the spare capacity to cover some of your work might erode goodwill.

Common types of flexible working

Flexi-time (choosing when to work, although there's usually a 'core' period when you have to work)
Annualised hours (hours worked out over a year)
Compressed hours (agreed hours over fewer days)
Staggered hours (different start, break and finish times for different employees)
Job-share (sharing a job designed for one person with someone else)
Home work (self-explanatory)
Part-time work (ditto)

"Do consider offering a trial period. It provides a bit of a 'safe' environment to test your proposal. Your employer is protected as they can withdraw the arrangement if it's not working, and it gives you the opportunity to make damn sure it works brilliantly so they can't possibly turn it down." flowerybeanbag

"You are entitled to request flexible working, but when you are at work, you need to work at the same rate as you did before you became a Mum. Never use your kids as an excuse. If your job means you need to stay away etc you need to find a way to make this work with children." melrose

Remember that it's not appropriate for your employer to grill you about your childcare arrangements during the course of discussions about flexible working.

The employer's perspective

"I manage a team of about 15 of whom seven are parents. I have various flexible arrangements in place for all of them. One comes in at 10.15am after he has done the school run, but works till 6:15pm. One works a couple of days from a more local office including timing these days for school assemblies. One has a disabled child and sometimes needs to take time off quickly, and one works from home a couple of days a week.

"No-one on Mumsnet will be surprised to hear that all these workers are good performers. They all do their job and a bit more, sometimes from home when they log-in on a laptop in the evening. It's actually the single, non-parent who turns in the poorest performance in the team.

"If you can come to an agreement with your boss about what outputs you're going to deliver over say, a week, and then check in again after that period to prove you've done it, it quickly becomes apparent that you are delivering work but don't have to sit in the office 9am-5pm to do it. If the boss is sceptical, then why not ask to try an arrangement for a trial period and then prove in this period that it will work?

"When you have a couple of days when the childcare is a dead cert, eg Grandma rather than nursery, work really hard and be very visible to make up for the days when you have to nip off at 4.30pm.

"If you are coming back to a three-day week from full time, be a bit proactive with your boss to make sure they have covered off the other two days with some other arrangements (if you work in a job that is usually expected to deliver things five days)." mrsbaldwin

Last updated: 7 months ago