Flexible working. Feminism. Fun.

5 reasons why employers turn down flexible working requests

5 reasons why employers turn down flexible working requests

Did you know that all UK employees have a legal right to request flexible working – not just parents or carers?

Having the right to ask for flexibility is great, but the reality is that flexible working requests often get turned down. Here are some reasons why your boss doesn’t want to let you work flexibly – and what you can about it.

1. Your employer doesn’t trust you

If your employer is hemming and hawing about your request to work from home a few days a week, it’s possible that they think ‘working from home’ is a euphemism for ‘watching Jeremy Kyle while periodically responding to emails so you think I’m doing stuff.’

What you can do: Ask for a trial period of a few months so you can show them that you’re capable of doing just as much work from home – probably more, because you’re not distracted by office chatter, wasting time with a long commute or exhausted from early mornings and stressful nursery runs.

When my husband got a job in another city four hours away a few years ago, I asked my employer if I could work from home most of the time and travel up to Glasgow every few weeks for meetings.

I was taking a big chance. My employer didn’t officially support homeworking. There were over 1,000 employees at my organisation, and not a single one worked from home.

But they let me do it for nearly two years.

Why? Because I’d been working there for seven years, and they knew they could trust me. If I said I was working, they knew I was actually working.

We agreed to try it for a few months to see if it worked. It did. I got to keep my job despite the move, and my employer got to keep a dedicated employee. Everyone was happy.

If you’ve proven yourself to be a responsible, hardworking employee, your employer should be up for at least trying out flexible working. If, however, you’ve been the sort of employee who turns up late and then dicks around on Facebook all afternoon…well, your employer probably has a point. I wouldn’t trust you either.

2. You made the request all about you

When you ask for flexible working arrangements, don’t make it all about you.

“Working reduced hours will help me manage my childcare better.”

“Working from home will be easier for me.”

“Different working hours would suit my schedule.”


I mean, all those things could be true, but you need to show your employer how flexible working arrangements can be beneficial to both of you.

What you can do: Explain how your request will make things better for you and your employer.

“Working reduced hours will help me manage my childcare better, and because I won’t have to worry so much about childcare, I can be more focused on my work when I’m in the office.”

“Working from home will mean I don’t have to do a long commute to the office every day, which will mean I have more time to work on my projects.”

“Working flexible hours will allow me to do the nursery run in the morning and afternoon but still be available during core office hours for meetings.”

3. Your employer is new to this

If your employer turns down your flexible working request, it may be that they just don’t have any experience with flexible working and don’t understand how it can work.

What you can do: There’s a lot of evidence out there that flexible working can – and does – benefit employers. Show it to them.

Here are some articles that you can casually drop in their inbox:

4. Your job doesn’t suit flexible working

Your employer has the right to turn down your flexible working request if they have a good business reason for doing so. And sometimes, even if your employer has the best intentions, they legitimately can’t make it work.

If you work in a shop, for example, you can’t exactly say, “So, is it cool if I work from home on Mondays?” That’s obvious. But your employer may also might turn down a request to reduce your hours because there’s no one else who can cover your work, or say you can’t change your hours because they need your support at specific times.

What you can do: If your set hours don’t suit you, ask your employer if there are other roles in the company that may suit a flexible working schedule better. You never know – there may be opportunities that neither of you had ever considered before. If not, it may be time to move on and try something new.

5. Your employer is an a-hole

Some bosses are just terrible people. No logical arguments or articles about the benefits of flexible working are going to change that.

What you can do: Leave. Be polite about it, because you may need to use them as a reference. But seriously – don’t stick around. There’s bound to be an employer out there who gets that your skills are awesome and couldn’t give less of a shit where or when you use them, as long as the job gets done.

Do you have a story to share about your own struggles with flexible working? Join my Flexi Mamas series. Email katie@squirmypopple.com for more information.

5 reasons why employers turn down flexible working requests

18 thoughts on “5 reasons why employers turn down flexible working requests”

  • All really good advice. I definitely agree you have to make your application mainly about how your flexible working will benefit them. Some managers are to dense to figure it out themselves so you do have to point it out to them x

  • This is really helpful. I think your advice about asking for a trial run is a great idea! Hubby has flexible working and actually turned down a higher-paid job because flexible working wasn’t available there. It makes a huge difference to our family life and general happiness 🙂 #ablogginggoodtime

  • I had a lot of experience with number 5 and therefore I left. It frustrates me that I had to leave a job I was really good at because my daughter was going to start school and I didn’t have a childminder but ultimately I’m much happier working for myself. Although I am a bit poor! #ablogginggoodtime

  • I have had a few of no.5 TBH. But it isn’t always easy for employers to give you flexibility. There is very little flexibility in teaching during term time but as a teacher you feel like you can never complain about this as you have ‘so many holidays’ but I do miss out on a lot of school trips, plays, first days etc Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?

  • Brilliant. I feel like the law on this is a bit of a joke if I’m honest. People are asking for flexible working up and down the country but rarely getting it, or rarely getting it on their terms. The law, in my opinion, probably doesn’t quite go far enough. But that’s a different issue for a different day. My situation fell entirely into point 5. My boss was an A-hole. He didn’t even believe in paying women maternity pay (I know!) never mind flexible working. So I did as you quite rightly suggest and politely left. I’ve never looked back!! x #BlogCrush

  • Hi, thanks for sharing this really informative information. A lot of my friends have flexible working and work from home on a regular basis. I think that it has now become more of the norm which can only be a good thing if it results in better productivity and a work / life balance #fortheloveofBlog

  • Great post! My employer accepted mine, then was still a dick and I ended up leaving! My friend had a request turned down because they said it wouldn’t work. She appealed and basically said “why not? and they had no answers! She won the appeal and it’s worked fine! #familyfunlinky

  • No 2 is a really good point actually, and one I probably didn’t articulate as well as I should have when I applied after maternity leave to go to part time hours. However I was told my boss wasn’t sure “whether her boss would let her approve it” (ahem… ) I worked as press officer for an NHS hospital, one of 3 press officers, only one with kids, stressful job, out of hours calls, just not really suitable to working from home or mega flexible hours. So yep, I left. Not only because of this I’ll add, but it was a factor. #FortheloveofBLOG

  • Oooh this is really insightful and no doubt a great resource for many who may need flexible working hours – for whatever reason. I think if you’ve proven yourself to be a conscientious employee and built a good trusting relationship with you boss it would really help get approval in situations like this. Unless of course, they are an a-hole, as you say. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

  • I applied for a job that was internet based and could easily be managed from home with a weekly meeting at the office. When I asked about working from home to save the company on office costs and commuting fees (which they paid for) the boss said “If I can’t work from home, no one can.”

    That’s it. No reason other than he’s an asshole who wants everyone to suffer. I cannot imagine what a wanker he is to be stuck in an office with all day. #BlogCrush

  • Fantastic, practical advice here. Going back to work after having a baby is such a daunting thing. I particularly agree with focusing on why it will work for your employer rather than it being about you affording nursery bills! Xx #blogcrush

  • I love all your posts about flexible working – I am a big believer in it and it’s proved time and time again that improves things for both the employee AND the employer. Congratulations on being the featured post on this weeks’ #blogcrush

  • I think this is a wonderful post for showing it is possible to do flexi work that works both for you and your employer. I think the trick is to find a great company that you feel you are able to talk openly and honestly with. #BlogCrush

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: