Even after compiling the most robust flexible working request, answering the queries or concerns that may come up, they can still be refused. This can put a metaphorical brick wall in your return to work and work-life balance plans, and may leave you asking;
“What can I do if my flexible working request is rejected?”
In an ideal world, the flexible working request would be obsolete. If I ruled the world, then ALL jobs would automatically be flexible by default. The hours that are worked and where they are worked would be discussed in the same way that salary is! But, let’s have a reality check. There is a LONG way to go before that happens. So in the meantime, if you want to adjust your agreed working conditions, the flexible working request is the route you need to go down.
There are only a few legitimate reasons why an employer can refuse your flexible working request. According to the Citizens Advice, these are:
• Planned structural changes
• The burden of additional costs
• Quality or standards can suffer
• They won’t be able to recruit additional staff
• Performance will suffer
• Won’t be able to reorganise work amongst existing staff
• Will struggle to meet customer demand
• Lack of work during the periods you propose to work
Following your meeting to discuss your request (which you should insist on) if your employer rejects your proposal, it would be expected that there is an explanation to why. Not just a blanket, one-liner detailing “Business reasons”. This is rolled out, all too frequently!
What are the next steps after your request is denied?
You can appeal
The phrase “appeal” may sound a bit dramatic, but on a simple level, this is a meeting to discuss WHY it is has been rejected. This can be an opportunity to discuss a compromise position – it is that some vital information has been missing in the application or there is an opportunity to look at it at another point? There are occasions that a new flexible working agreement is created following an appeal; regardless of how informal it is, you have the right to bring someone with you.
You can apply again later
Currently, you can put in one request in any 12-month period as long as you have been employed by the company for 26-weeks or more. There is a chance to apply again in the future. This may not help you right now, but it isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity. During this period, if circumstances allow, can you trial your proposal through using annual leave?
You can ask for support
So often parents carry the burden of everything and the kitchen sink on our shoulders. If the flexible working request has been denied, then how can you delegate your responsibilities outside of the day job? You don’t have to DO everything. In fact, regardless of your working conditions, it’s time you shared the mental workload to get a healthy work-life balance.
You can look for another job
If the role and its conditions are not working for you, are there options to look for another opportunity across the company? If your Manager doesn’t value your skills and experience, maybe there is another person that would. Be upfront during your application about your need for flexible working.
You can find another company
Sometimes you may need to spread your career wings to find the opportunity that gives you’re the career and work-life balance you deserve. It may not feel like it at the moment, but there ARE a range of organisations that provide flexible opportunities. Don’t believe me? Check out my recommendations here. If you are due to return to work after parental leave, then make sure you check out your policy to see if you have to pay back any of your parental leave pay should you resign.
You can put in a complaint
If you feel like you haven’t been treated correctly or fairly you DO have the right to put in a formal complaint. If you have appealed and feel that it hasn’t been handled properly, other options may be your company’s internal grievance procedure, speak to your trade union or make a claim through an employment tribunal. To find out more look at the ACAS site or Pregnant then Screwed.
Ultimately, your work-life balance and wellbeing should be an integral part of your career. Whilst flexible working can be needed for practical reasons, such as childcare, it is much, much more than this! You do have options and choices; make sure you know WHAT you need, and then work with supportive people to find it.
Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox to find out more about your work-life balance and access regular, FREE career coaching sessions.