How to request flexible working

Marc Lockley

If you're keen to wind down your working hours, but hate the thought of retiring early, here are some tips to approaching the boss about flexible working.

The present economic climate may work in your favour. With the market tough, many employers are more open to the idea of employees working flexibly, so approaching them could be timely.

1. Clarify your thoughts

Have in mind what you ideally would achieve and what you are happy to accept. For example, in an ideal scenario you could aim for a three-day-week, while being prepared to accept four working days as a compromise.

2. Check your rights

In some instances the law provides employees with statutory rights to ask for a flexible working pattern. Visit to check this out. The site also explains the formal procedure involved.

You can not be made to retire! Read more about your rights.

3. What's in it for them?

When you are persuading a boss to offer you flexible working, you need to look at it from their perspective. What will they gain by agreeing to you working flexible hours? For example, you may be able to suggest ways in which you could condense your role to be covered in three days, thereby saving 40% in salary; or allowing a colleague the opportunity to learn your role under your guidance to take over from you in two years' time – succession planning is key in most companies.

4. Answer the 'well, OK but....' 

Think in advance of objections they could raise. Show the employer you have thought about the impact working flexibly might have on the business and how you and they could deal most effectively with this.

Is it time to get a new job? Read our job hunting tips for the over-50s.

5. An objection made can be a good thing 

An employer saying 'it wouldn't work with you only here for three days a week' is not necessarily ruling out the idea of flexible working. Perhaps they would be happy to agree to a four-day week.

6. Timing is everything. 

Ask for the meeting to discuss flexible working when the boss is in a positive frame of mind - not after they've just come out of a gruelling board meeting.

Working from home? Read our tips and keep productive.

7. Does a colleague feel the same way? 

There is every chance a colleague also wants to discuss flexible hours. They may be in a similar position to you, or perhaps they are a working mum who wants to spend more time at home. Discussing a job share as a solution could prove beneficial.

Written by Marc Lockley, a negotiation coach, is a regular contributor to Saga online and the writer of a fortnightly consumer column for Guardian online called 'the Negotiator'. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.