Q: I need to go part-time for at least six months to take on some caring responsibilities. However, my employer isn’t the most approachable. How can I get them to respond to my flexible working request favourably? And how do I ensure my job is protected as a full-time position in the long-term?
A: You mention that you would like to go part-time to take on some caring responsibilities, so my first question is who will you be caring for? This is particularly relevant and will have a real impact on your rights.
If you are going to be caring for your child (who is under six or disabled up to the age of 18) or a spouse, partner (you live with), or relative, or you live at the same address as the adult in need of care, then you have the legal right to request flexible working (as long as you have been in your role for at least 26 weeks).
If the person you are planning to care for does not fall into one of the categories outlined above, then unfortunately you do not have specific legal rights. However you can certainly still make the request, and by putting together a solid business case, and following a few key guidelines, you will significantly increase your chances of a positive response.
In both cases I would suggest the same, that you submit your request in writing and remember to think from the perspective of your employer – what are they going to need to hear so that they say yes?
Your request will need to include a range of relevant points, such as how many hours you would like to work and how you would ideally like these broken down across the week/month (remember the more flexible you can be the more chance you will have). Think about how your role will be affected by reduced hours and make suggestions on what action could be taken to minimise any negative impact, and be sure to include when you would like to begin working part-time.
Your employer may have a standard template to complete – if not then covering the points above will help your case. Unfortunately, even if you are legally entitled to make the request, your employer is still able to refuse. The good news is that they need a good business reason to do so and if your application is rejected, you can appeal (it would probably be wise to get legal advice if you reach this point).
With relation to ensuring your job is protected, unfortunately such guarantees are very rare, regardless of your request or hours. All roles are subject to review and development. There will of course be exceptions to the rule, but unfortunately employers cannot generally guarantee full-time positions in the long-term.
This is general information. Your specific circumstances will dictate what action you need to take, so you need to look closely at your rights and be sure that you are fully aware of all your options. More detailed information is available at www.carersuk.org.
Mary Jackson is recruitment manager for Hackney Council’s children and young people’s directorate
Good employers are one step ahead of the law and many organisations have their own policies in place that may actually grant you more than the statutory rights. Check it out and you may be pleasantly surprised. The Equality and Human Rights Commission website has some advice regarding this.
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