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Tips on asking for job flexibility

Job flexibility is becoming increasingly attractive to many women, here's how to ask for it, and increase your chances of getting it.

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Workplace flexibility is a bit of an “in” thing in Australian workplaces, particularly among working Mums and Dads, but how do you ask for it and actually get want you want?

First some facts: In Australia, the Fair Work Act 2009 provides employees a legal right to request flexible working arrangements as long as you’ve been working for your employer for 12 months in either a full-time or part-time capacity.

We asked Jobs Shared founder and chief executive officer Simone McLaughlin for her tips on asking for job flexibility and importantly how it might affect your pay.

Before walking into the bosses office or interview room, consider the following.

• Have you done your research? Do you know whether the company you are working for actually offers work flexibility, and how they define it. For example is it being allowed to work from home or is it through job sharing?
• Think about what’s in it for your boss. How can it benefit them?
• Try and get support from your colleagues – where possible as it may help.
• Make the request face-to-face.
• Be confident when asking.
• Where possible, ask about it in the initial job interview.
• Show you have career ambition, and working flexibly is a career move.

Are women good at asking for these opportunities?
“I’m not sure there’s a straightforward answer for this. Typically women are the ones asking for flexible work, more so than men, so it’s much more accepted.

“However, a lot of flexible work requests get knocked back and I believe in some cases, it’s how the request is delivered.

“If a proposal is developed along with a backup plan for negotiating in case you do get a no, there’s a better chance of getting it over the line.

“I think a lot of the time the request is made via email, rather than in person, and not a lot of consideration has been given to how it’s going to work.

“So women tend to be more comfortable asking for flexible work than men, but they way they ask can lead to a knock back which has serious repercussions if you’re already feeling vulnerable.”

How does job sharing affect your pay?
“From the employer’s point of view, there’s often a reluctance to pay two people to work 60 per cent or 3 days a week to allow for a day crossover.

“Instead of paying one full-time person 100 per cent they would have to pay two people 120 per cent. They struggle to see that this is more than made up for by higher productivity and less downtime, as there’s still partial cover over holidays.

“From an employee’s perspective, it can be hard to take a pay cut which comes with working less hours.

“Going from working five days to three days a week can be tough, but options like job sharing can make it a little bit easier by allowing you to maintain the same seniority, so you’re not taking a pay cut and reducing your hours too.”

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