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How to request flexibility when returning from parental leave

Returning to work from parental leave can be an extremely daunting and stressful time, not only will you need to mentally prepare yourself, the logistics behind it can be quite overwhelming too. Planning in advance is key to a smooth transition back into the workforce.

The opportunity to work flexibly for mothers is an important benefit as it allows them to maintain and advance their careers whilst still being able to support their families. Unfortunately many still find it a difficult topic to raise with their employer so here are our tips to request your flexible working arrangement.

1. Stay in touch with your employer during your leave period

We recommend you regularly stay in touch with your employer (manager and colleagues) during your leave period and where you can, engage in open and transparent communication around your return to work preferences and hopes.

Has anyone else in the business returned from parental leave in a flexible arrangement, who is managing well in a part-time role and is there anyone working in a job-share? Remaining updated on current staffing arrangements will help build a better case when it is your turn to negotiate.

The good news is that as of December 1st 2018, employers will be forced to give detailed reasons for refusing flexible work under a new clause to be inserted into all modern awards by the Fair Work Commission. Meaning it will be a lot more difficult for employers to say no to your request.

2. Make a plan to negotiate your flexible schedule

Really think about what you want to negotiate. Think about your life and your job. How will you make this work and what do you want to achieve? Flexibility looks different to everyone. Can you work some of your role from home? Would an early finish time suit to pick the kids up from school? Or would 3 days a week be ideal?

3. Establish how this flexible schedule will benefit your employer

It is proven that flexibility has huge benefits for employers, not only will they retain and engage their employees, studies also show flexible work increases productivity, decreases stress and makes for happier workers.

Perhaps those 2 hours a day you would spend commuting you could work from home or if you are requesting a remote schedule, a benefit could be that they won't need to supply daily space or an office for you or how fewer interruptions gives you more time to focus on important projects.

You want to demonstrate to your employer the benefits of this new arrangement. 

4. Write a plan to negotiate

Now that you know exactly what type of flexible arrangement you want to negotiate and the clear benefits from an employer perspective, it’s time to write a proposal. Ensure you cover the below;

  1. Why you are requesting a flexible schedule
  2. Be clear on the type of arrangement you are proposing
  3. How this will benefit your employer
  4. How you will successfully complete your work / manage your tasks
  5. How you will maintain communication with your employer, other staff and customers/stakeholders
  6. How the arrangement can be evaluated and reviewed
  7. The support needed from senior management

5. Organise a meeting with your employer to negotiate your flexible schedule

Bring your written plan to the meeting. Be mindful that your manager will most likely consider your arrangement in accordance with the current company policy. Try to agree on how you will complete your work, the communication standards, performance evaluation and reassure them that you will be contributing to their best interests. Listen to and address any concerns they have and provide applicable feedback. Know that you too may have to be flexible and possibly compromise on details of the schedule.

If flexibility is not the norm within your business or part of the company culture it is worth mentioning to your employer that your flexible work arrangement could be used as a trial within the business. 

Once you’ve reached an agreement, be sure to put it all in writing and have your employment contract updated accordingly.

The key to request a flexible work schedule is having a strategy for your proposal.

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