What 70% of People Don’t Know About Workplace Flexibility

Don’t Know About Workplace FlexibilityThis week for me was incredibly ‘disjointed’ to say the least. My car broke down due to an oil leak, and I had to manage without a car for three days, I also had two funerals, and two doctors appointments one for me, and one for my son whom I discovered (whilst buying new school shoes) had a very bad ingrown toe nail, and to top it off he then injured himself playing rugby so there was also a trip to the physio. In addition there was parent/teacher interviews at 4pm. The only thing that made this manageable for me is that I am my own boss, therefore I have a certain degree more flexibility than most employed.

It made me wonder how did I do this before I became self employed? Workplace flexibility as an employee was just a pipe dream in those days, and in fact it was one of the key considerations in becoming self employed.  Many working mums (and mums seeking work) these days are still trying to figure out how they can manage all of life’s curve balls that arise out of their carer responsibilities, but are you ‘soldiering on’ without knowing you have certain rights to ask for flexibility at work?

A study released by the University of Adelaide Centre for Work & Life found that almost 70% of people surveyed didn’t know the eligibility factors under which they had the right to request flexible work conditions. It has been almost 4 years since the enactment of legislation which gave employees stronger ability to negotiate flexible work conditions, yet as the survey revealed only 30% were aware of it.

What Flexibility Can You Ask For?

First you need to meet certain eligibility requirements to be in a position to have the right to ask for flexibility.

It needs to be clearly pointed out here that whilst you have the right to ask, for flexibility at work, it doesn’t mean you have the right to get. The legislation also provides a counter for the employer to have the right to refuse based on certain grounds.

The specific grounds of flexibility upon which you can request flexibility at work are:

  • Changes to work hours
  • Place of work, and
  • Your pattern of work.

Who Is Eligible?

Not every worker has the Right To Request (RTR) flexible arrangements. The following combination of either being:

  • A parent or guardian of a school aged child or younger.
  • Employed regularly and systematically for at least 12 months, with continuity of working regularly.
  • Employed by your current employer for at least 12 months.
  • A registered carer (as defined under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • Have a disability
  • Older than 55 years of age is needed to be met to claim eligibility for the entitlement to request flexible work conditions.

What To Do If You Want To Ask Your Employer

First don’t go trumpeting in to your manager declaring that you have ‘rights’ to flexibility. The best thing is to plan your approach and your are more likely to receive well considered response and potentially the flexibility you desire.

  1. Before you approach your employer work out how your employer and you are going to meet job requirements and goals should flexibility to granted. Don’t dump it on the employer and expect them to figure it out for you. Devise a well though out plan and think of all the objections they could come up with. Have a solution for them all.
  2. Be professional. Present it as you were presenting a professional business case. Use powerpoint or a business proposal template. There are many free templates on the internet to structure your approach.  If you have had flexible work conditions in previous employment get a testimonial from former bosses to add to your business case. Or present it as a case study of how it worked in other work places. You will come across as more serious and credible. Credibility is a key influencer in the workplace.
  3. Work out any potential costs to your employer on applying flexibility for you and how those costs can be recouped or balanced out in the long term.
  4. Consider a trial period or devise a program of partially easing into the new flexible arrangements so there is less disruption to the work place and your work team. Remember other team workers who are not eligible need to be considered if it impacts them. You need to have them on side.

Having the Right To Request gives employees a greater opening to start a dialogue around gaining the flexibility you want. If your request isn’t successful the first time, don’t give up! Chip away at it over time and be persistent. Engage with HR to help you work out a long term plan. Your manager may eventually see your side and grant the changed conditions.

Anne-Marie Orrock

Anne-Marie Orrock is Director of Corporate Canary HR Consulting and helps companies with developing the sophistication of their Human Resources & recruitment strategy around new technologies, social media and talent branding.

Anne-Marie is a sought after media commentator on HR, leadership, and business and has appeared in various publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Boss Magazine, NETT Magazine, Marie Claire, CLEO, My Business, Dynamic Business, Cosmopolitan & HR Monthly. In June 2012 Anne-Marie Co-authored ‘Mind Your Own Business’, a guide for small businesses, published by Mithra Publishing in the UK.

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