So you want to bring more flexibility to your working environment but aren’t sure how to go about it?

While most people hear flexible working and think “work-from-home”, there are multiple ways to have flexibility in your job. It can mean adjusting your start and finishing times, changing the number of hours or days you work, job-sharing with another person or taking additional unpaid leave/study breaks.

Want to make a change? Let our latest top tips help guide you through the process of making a flexible working request.

Important things to consider:
Before making the request, make sure you have a good reason for wanting the flexibility and a plan as to how exactly you see it working within your current organisation. Other things to consider are:

  • Will you be able to complete your workload within the new structure?
  • What impact will the proposed change have on your colleagues/the organisation?
  • Will this be a permanent change or for a set period of time?
  • If you’re looking at reducing your hours, remember that also means a reduction in pay. Crunch the numbers to make sure it’s going to be feasible for you.

How to make the request:
Your flexible working request needs to be made in writing. Even if you’ve had a chat in person with your manager, you’ll still need to make a formal written request for them to properly consider it. This can usually be done via email but it’s best to check with your manager on how they would like to receive it.

What to include:
When it comes to making the request, make sure you include a compelling reason for wanting the adjustment. Spell out exactly what changes you want to make and from what date you would like them to come into effect. Essentially, you’re putting forward a business case, so the more detail you can include in your request, the better. Employment New Zealand has some good information and templates you can use to get started.

How long will it take?
Under part 6AA of the Employment Relations Act 2000, all employees have the right to request a variation to their working arrangements at any time. Once you make a formal request, your employer has one month to respond. If your written request is done the old-fashioned way on paper, make sure you include the date on the document, which also needs to be the date you give the request to your manager.

If you can, it’s always a good idea to have a chat with your manager and give them the heads up before you make the formal request. While your employer has one month to give you an official answer once the written request is received, the more time they have to think things through and plan out any necessary arrangements, the better for everyone.

If your request is accepted, there’ll be some new paperwork for you to read and sign to make that change official. Make sure you go through it carefully and as with any employment contract, don’t be afraid to seek legal or independent advice before signing.

What if I’ve changed my mind or the new arrangement isn’t working out?
If you decide the new flexible set-up isn’t quite working out and you want to switch back to your original arrangement, you’ll need to go through the same process and make that request in writing. It’s important to note that if the change was made permanent originally, there’s no obligation from your employer to offer the previous working arrangement again – so keep that in mind!

To avoid this situation, one option that may be worth exploring is setting a trial period to see how well the new arrangement is going to work in practice.

What happens if my request is denied?
While it’s disappointing to have a flexible work request denied, it’s good to understand from your employer’s perspective the reason why. If they haven’t given you specific feedback, don’t be afraid to ask.

There’s no limit on how many times you can request flexible working arrangements, so if it’s just a matter of timing then perhaps you can ask again in future. However, if your requests are being repeatedly denied, it may be time to find a new job that better suits your needs.

There can be many reasons why a flexible working arrangement can’t be approved by an employer, but if you feel they’re not acting in good faith with their reasoning, you can seek external advice.

Modern workplaces are changing and adapting thanks to new technology and thinking around how organisations can best operate and support their staff. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our workplaces can change rapidly and there’s always another way to do things. If you want to bring some more flexibility into your current role, don’t be afraid to explore all options!

Good luck,
Kirsty and Nikki

Managing Flexible Working Requests in 2021