How to ask for flexible working – and get it!


Flexible working is something that all parents have the right to request of their employers – but while employers must consider flexible working requests, they don’t necessarily need to grant them.

Gemma Johnson, the founder and CEO of MyFamilyClub, has been on both ends of the stick – first as an employee returning from maternity leave with a flexible working request, then as a manager running a business and having to balance a team’s needs against the business’ needs.

Here are her three steps to submitting a successful flexible working request, from a manager’s perspective.

1. Don’t get personal

OK, so your kids are telling you they miss you, you are feeling guilty about working or you just simply want to have a more flexible pattern. Whatever you do, don’t use the kids as the reason, don’t make it personal. Walking in to your manager’s office exclaiming “you miss your baby” isn’t going to get your proposal approved. It sounds harsh but you must appeal to the interests of your manager and the bottom line concerns he or she may have.

2. Put a proposal together outlining the benefits and a solution

You need a structured, organised approach to a flexible working request. Take the time to build your case and write down the main points. Key things to include in your plan are:

  • How you are going to manage your time when reducing your hours?
  • How are you going to keep in touch?
  • How can you restructure your job?
  • How can you job share?

Your manager will approve your request based on the business merits rather than your personal reasons as to why you want it. Think about your request in a similar way to asking for a pay rise: You won’t get a pay rise because your car has packed up or you want to go on more holidays. It needs to be structured around your worth and what you can deliver to the business.

Remember to think about the manager’s point of view when putting your proposal together:

  • What’s in it for them?
  • What’s in it for the business and how does everyone benefit?

Present your idea in an objective, business-like manner despite the personal and emotional needs behind it.

3. Build up your confidence

One of the biggest problems we face when returning to work after maternity leave is a lack of confidence in our own abilities and value.

But if you’re not clear on your own worth, how will you communicate this successfully to your manager – and get them to agree to a change in working patterns?

The following are important factors in building up the confidence to approach your manager:

  • Make sure you gather information and be a research junkie to get your case together
  • Put some time into developing a strategy that helps your boss/employer by outlining the benefits
  • Choose the right wording: Practice, practice, practice! The more prepared you are, the more convincing you will be as you’ll know it by heart and have a chance to absorb what you need to present.
  • Anticipate objection handling and get some thought-through responses ready… It’s never as bad as you think if you have thought through what the objections might be.

Good luck and remember, not all bosses are horrible bosses! Some of us are easy to approach and appreciate the complexities that come with juggling work and a family.

Understand your flexible working entitlements, then make a compelling and valid case – your chance of succeeding will be a lot higher.

Other helpful resources for flexible working include DirectGov and LawDonut.