Working Families Guide to Requesting Flexible Working
Step 1 – What to ask for
It can be hard to know what to ask for, especially if you are going back to work after having your first baby or if you are considering your responsibilities and don't know how long-term they will need to be. You may need to think about the following things.
If you have a partner, doing this exercise together will give you an overview of how your family currently works, how you both want it to work and what you might both be able to change.
What is realistic for the type of work you do. For example, not all jobs can be done from home. If you want to change the times when you work, this may have an impact on your duties (for example, whether you can still open up the workplace at the start of the day), or how busy you will be.
What your priorities are. Before you start, it may be useful for you to look at the whole of your life and work out what is most important – what do you want to spend time doing? You could use the Working Families exercise to help you do this.
What childcare or other forms of care are available, where it is, and how much it will cost. How much do you want to use formal sources of care, and how much is it possible to provide it yourself or with your partner and family? Can you get any help with the costs? There is more information about childcare on theDaycare Trust website. You could contact your local Family Information Service for local childcare information, you can find out your local details on the GOV.UK website. If you are caring for an adult you can find out information about organisations that can help on the Carers UK website.
Travelling to work – how long does it take? Who will drop off and pick up your children from childcare? In the case of an adult, who will take responsibility for meeting the individual providing formal care each day and for dropping off and picking up from any formal care arrangements? How much is this going to cost and does the price vary depending on when you travel?
Who does what? For example, at the moment, who takes children to and from school? Who does the household shopping? Who cooks meals, and who is in charge of getting children up and dressed or asking them about homework? Who will be in charge of arranging any healthcare needs, including doctors' or hospital appointments? It may be useful to have a discussion about these things: perhaps some of them could be changed, which will give you more options for working flexibly. Or perhaps your partner could think about changing the way they work instead of, or as well as, you.
What do you value about work? As well as working to make money, there may be lots of other reasons why you want to carry on working or go back to work: your colleagues, getting out of the house, long term career prospects, status and self-esteem. If you have a partner, it’s worth doing this together, so that you both feel you have considered the value of work to each other.
How much do you need to earn? You may need to ask for estimates of your salary on different hours. If you don’t want to alert your employer, you can always try to work it out yourself based on a pro-rata salary (proportional to the number of days you want to work) – remember that the legal right to request flexible working applies to your original job, although you and your employer may end up negotiating about what you do. If your partner earns more or less than you, this could be one of the factors you think about in deciding whether you both go part-time, or which one of you stays full-time – or any other pattern which will work for your family.
Can you manage your finances differently? It may be worth looking at the overall picture of what you spend money on, whether you can reduce your outgoings and increase the money you have coming in. Try the Money Advice Service website which has guides on managing your money in different situations, including bringing up a family and caring for someone. You can also take a financial healthcheck which will highlight any areas you may need to think about.
What tax credits will you get? You may be entitled to some child tax credit, and possibly some working tax credit as well. You should try to look at different scenarios (hours, childcare costs etc), but remember that tax credits are initially based on income in the previous tax year (your whole taxable income, not your annual salary). Have a look at the Revenue website which has lots more information about how tax credits work and what help you can get.
Will you get childcare vouchers? If you get childcare vouchers from your employer, there will usually be a tax and national insurance saving. If you receive tax credits and childcare vouchers you have to deduct the childcare vouchers from your childcare costs for tax credits, and use your income after the salary sacrifice if that is how your employer pays you vouchers.
You need to work at least 16 hours a week to get working tax credit if you are a lone parent, and 24 hours a week between you, with one of you working at least 16 hours, if you have a partner (unless your partner gets certain benefits for sickness, disability, or caring for a disabled person). To get help with childcare costs from working tax credit, either you work at least 16 hours a week (if you are a lone parent), or both you and your partner work at least 16 hours a week, (unless your partner gets certain benefits for sickness, disability or caring for a disabled person). But remember that your income affects how your tax credits are worked out.
There are many different types of flexible working. You don’t have to ask for reduced hours. It could be that you want a compressed working week (fewer, longer days), a job share, finishing earlier to collect your children, term time working, or more time working at home.
You should also think about what will suit your employer, and what will fit in with your workplace. However you make your request, you are more likely to be successful if you can show that you have thought through how it will work in practice. If your employer has any family friendly policies, it’s worth finding out what these are in advance, and how they have worked for other people.
It may help if you can suggest more than one option to your employer, to show that you are willing to be flexible and discuss which options will suit the workplace best, as well as your situation.
You could use our table of hours and income to list the different options which would work for you and compare their affordability and the amount of time you will have with your family.