Landmark decision with flexible working, but will disability matter?

by | 4th July 2014 | Blog

First, the good news.  The world of flexible working is finally open to everyone who has a job. This means that any one who feels that their life would benefit from flexible working can approach their employer and put their case forward. The employer doesn’t have to say yes of course, but everyone now has the right to ask, thanks to this landmark decision by the government. Before, you either had to have young children or you had to be a carer.

Here at The Life Coach Station, where we dispense employment advice on a daily basis, this is a landmark and groundbreaking moment in time. So that was the good news.

The even better news is that this should make it easier for a disabled person to be able to request flexible working. Flexible working can be a godsend to someone who is disabled. Disabled people have the right to work obviously, but sometimes it can be difficult for them to access their workplace, or feel comfortable in it. From mental health issues to physical disability, disabled people are not always in the best place, as it were, when they’re in the office.

This new direction in flexible working does bring up a few questions. First of all, if everyone is allowed to ask for flexible working, will some people be given preferential treatment? For example, if a new mother wanted flexible working to be part of her lifestyle, would she be listened to more than someone who has depression?

It also brings up a more testing question. Even if we are allowed to ask employers for flexible working, this doesn’t mean that people are going to do it. There is such a culture of presenteeism in the modern workplace that it affects people’s willingness to ask these questions of their employer. Two actually are able to request flexible working still takes plenty of courage and confidence. There is always the fear that they will be rejected and even embarrassed.

However, this change only applies to employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks.  This suggests that the the recruitment of more people with disabilities is likely to be unaffected in the short term.  Over the past few years more employers have started to notice the real tangible benefits in introducing flexible working – a well known shopping centre outside Newton Abbot offers shifts that tie in with School start and finish times and are extremely successful at recruiting staff seeking a balance between work and caring for children.

Asking for flexible working

Make a plan as regards why you want the opportunity for flexible working. Talk it through with the people nearest to you and see if it makes sense. It is important that you validate what you are asking to do in your own mind first, before you ask your employer

Also, if you feel unsure about the response you may get and this is causing you to feel nervous, write down a few bullet points on a piece of paper first, and then take this into the meeting. The employer will probably respect the fact that you have tried to organise your thoughts, and you will be able to present your ‘case’ more confidently. 

A new beginning for disabled people?

We don’t know if this will herald the beginning of a new era for disabled employees, with a better way of working available to them, or if it will just make it harder to present a strong case, but if you feel you need to ask for flexible working due to a disability, don’t hesitate.

Although these changes do not cover new employees, it may still be worth asking if you can explain to a new employer how you can still meet the requirements of the post.  It never hurts to be seen as the one providing a well thought out solution that is of benefit to the business.

And if you want more advice on flexible working and disability, get in touch with me here at The Life Coach Station.



Chris Catt

The Enabled Entrepreneur

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