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Flexible working - negotiation

This advice applies to England

Negotiation is an important tool to use when you make a flexible working request.

The aim of negotiation is to find a solution which works for everyone involved. This means that even if your original request is not accepted, you could still negotiate an alternative solution which would work for you and your employer.

This page tells you what to consider when negotiating with your employer.

Negotiation style

Negotiating can take a number of forms, from hard-nosed bargaining to friendly agreement. It is worth remembering, you will be continuing to work for your employer, so the most successful negotiating style will be one which does not strain your working relationship with your employer or colleagues and tries to resolve any problems in a fair way.

This is the approach to negotiating which is outlined here.

Can you ask someone to negotiate for you?

You might feel nervous about negotiating with your employer especially if they don’t easily agree to your request.

If you feel you can’t handle the negotiations yourself you could try to  get the help of your trade union, if you belong to one, and ask them to negotiate for you.

If you are not in a trade union or don’t want to use a trade union representative, an advice worker may be able to help you to negotiate with your employer.

Who are the people involved?

Your approach to the negotiation will depend on who you are dealing with. You should try:

  • to work out what your employer's response might be
  • to understand their position, without necessarily agreeing with it
  • not to blame them even if this would be justifiable. Blaming them is likely to make them less likely to listen, and make them defensive or aggressive instead. For example, say you feel let down, rather than that your employer broke their word or misled you
  • to make the most of the things you agree on
  • to keep calm and not to react negatively.

What will your employer agree to?

It will help negotiations if you are prepared for the discussion and have thought about the concerns your employer may have and what you think they will agree to in advance.

For example, your employer could reject a flexible working application not because they are opposed to it in principle, but because no one has ever asked for this before. They may  be worried that the quality of work will drop, or that all their staff will want to change their contracts. You could overcome this by suggesting a six-month trial period.

The following points are useful for any negotiations:

  • find out what your employer's particular concerns are, and try to suggest solutions which suit both of you
  • argue that flexibility helps keep good, skilled workers
  • argue that part-time workers are likely to be more effective because they have longer breaks between work periods so have more energy for the job
  • show how additional costs, supervisory needs or use of space, can be balanced. For example, you could offer to share desks, or show the savings in recruitment and training of new people your employer will make if you are kept on
  • contrast extra costs with the extra flexibility your employer might gain, for example, covering peak periods, working at times when others are not available
  • get the support of your immediate supervisor and colleagues to show that it can work in practice.

What other options will you agree to?

It is a good idea to have a back-up plan in case your employer doesn’t agree to your first proposal. If you’re willing to be flexible in your approach, it’s more likely that your employer will too.

You should also consider what you would do if negotiations fail as this may affect how far you are prepared to go to reach an agreement.

You may need to think creatively to see if there are other ways of resolving the differences between you. For example, agreeing to a job share with a colleague or agreeing to work from home on an as-and-when basis.

What to do if negotiation fails

Negotiating does not mean that you have to reach an agreement. There will be times when no agreement is possible. If so, you could consider:

  • more formal negotiation, through, for example, the Acas arbitration scheme
  • continuing to work on your old terms and finding other solutions outside work, for example, asking friends or family to help out
  • continuing to work and making, for example, a claim under the rules about flexible working, or   a discrimination claim, depending on how your employer has acted
  • resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal, making a claim under the rules about flexible working if your made a statutory request, or making a discrimination claim
  • finding another job which would allow you to meet your commitments outside work and then resigning and taking no further action against your employer.

Next steps

Flexible working – taking action

Other useful information

Acas Arbitration Scheme -

Flexible working – preparing to discuss your request with your employer

Flexible working – discussing your request with your employer

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