How to apply for flexible working after maternity leave

If you are on maternity leave you might be thinking about your return to work and the hours you work. Perhaps you would like to reduce your working hours or try compressed working. Flexible working can mean that you have a better balance between your home life and work. Here are some tips for asking your employer for a change of working pattern:

1. Decide what you would like your new working pattern to be

There are various working patterns that you might want to consider:

• Part time
Part time is when you work less than a full-time worker. There is no set number of hours that makes someone a full or part-time worker although in the UK full-time workers normally work 35 hours or more a week.

• Job Share
A job share arrangement is when a full-time job is divided between two part-time workers. The job may, for example, be split over different days with both job-share partners working 2.5 days a week or it may be that one partner will work more days than the other. Another job share arrangement might involve one person working mornings and the other afternoons.

• Compressed hours
Working compressed hours allows you to work the same number of hours but over a shorter working week. This can be achieved by working longer hours, for example, 9 to 7pm instead to 9 to 5pm.

• Working from home/Teleworking
If you have a home computer your employer may consider allowing you to work from home for all or part of the week or somewhere else away from the employer's premises.

• Flexible shifts
Depending on the nature of your organisation you may be able to work flexible shifts to suit your childcare arrangements.

Remember there are other forms of flexible working that may suit you and your employer better.

2. Consider the impact on your employer

Before asking your employer for a change in working pattern think about the advantages for both yourself and your employer. This will make your case much stronger. Often employers are used to people working 9-5 and are not used to dividing work up to suit part-time workers. They may have concerns about introducing working from home arrangements feeling that employees are not really working if they are not at their desk. It is important that you address these concerns and emphasise the advantages that flexible working could bring to your organisation. If necessary are you able to compromise on the type of flexible working that you are asking for?

3. Think of the advantages it could bring to your organisation

• Flexible working can increase the commitment of employees – this can lead to increased productivity.  According to a 2011 survey by the Executive Offices Group, 87 per cent of respondents to the customer service survey said that the greatest benefit for an employer offering flexible working is an increase in the efficiency and output of staff.
• In the current economic downturn it may be appealing to your employer to pay you less.
• Working from home means no travelling time and thus avoids delays into work due to transport/traffic problems.
• A job share arrangement will mean that your employer has two informed people working for organisation – in effect two brains for the price of one
• Working flexible hours means that there is someone in the office outside 9-5 this may particularly suit organisations working with international companies.

4. Familiarise yourself with the procedure for making a request

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure that you are up to date with the correct procedure for applying for a change in your working pattern:
• Research whether your employer has an existing policy on flexible working.
• Make sure that you give yourself enough time to apply as the process for requesting and agreeing a new working pattern could take several months.
• Be prepared to negotiate and consider alternative patterns of flexible working.
• Find out whether you have a statutory right to apply for flexible working. In the UK employees that are eligible have a statutory right to apply for flexible working if they have parental responsibility for a child under 17 or a disabled child under 18. Under the UK law employers must seriously consider your application and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so.
• You might wish to talk to your colleagues about flexible working. Have any other employees applied for flexible working - if so what was their experience?
• Be prepared to appeal if your request is turned down.