Making a Request To Change Your Work Schedule

What happens when you ask your employer for some flexibility in your work schedule because of your obligations to your children? This might be especially necessary in the near future as many workers are being recalled to the workplace but your daycare and the kids’ after school programs might not be operational. You might be asking yourself some critical questions as you struggle to deal with the situation.

What can I expect to receive in terms of support and cooperation from my employer? 

How should I make my request to place myself in the best position to achieve an optimal outcome? 

These are rational and logical questions. Hopefully, we can provide you with some direction.

How much support can I expect? To be honest, you can reasonably expect some resistance from your employer when you are asking for flexibility in your schedule. It is possible that the decision-maker might not be aware of their legal obligations and could be worried about becoming overloaded with requests, or simply worried about how work will get done. 

They may also fear a workplace divide if some people have “preferred hours” over others. A typical response might be:  “Well, if I let you do it, I will have to let everyone make their own schedule.We have a business to run here!”

Do not anticipate them to jump for joy upon hearing your request. 

How should I make my request to place myself in the best position to achieve an optimal outcome?

Document the Polite Request

Firstly, frame your request as respectfully as possible, request an “accommodation meeting”, and come prepared. In your written request for a meeting, attach some materials to support your request. The materials should include exactly what you are requesting (include specific needs/requirements) and you should note that the request is for accommodation to support your parental obligation to your child(ren). 

You should keep a formal record of all of your requests. This first step is important as it serves as a “trigger to act/investigate” your accommodation request. Again, keep it professional, respectful, and frame it politely, as a cordial request. Getting off on the right foot is always beneficial to any interaction.

Also, record the request journey. Maintain a high degree of professionalism along the way as these records may be introduced as evidence at some point down the line. You want to portray yourself as the reasonable and helpful one in the conversation.

Win-Win

Secondly, frame the request as “Win-Win” as much as possible. For example, if you are asking to work outside of regular business hours, you can highlight the work you can perform in these earlier hours that would be a benefit to the organization. Is there a job/duty/task that piles up during the workday and causes a negative impact to operations because no one has time to address this during work hours that you could resolve by arriving earlier? Brainstorm as many “wins” for the employer as possible so you have legitimate benefits to offer.  

Consider taking on some duties that others typically try to avoid to counterbalance any opposition to your request. For example, you could offer to take on the “ABC Inventory”, which everyone dreads doing, during your time in the earlier hours. 

Another example might be, if you were coming in earlier, that you could take your lunch earlier so you work during peak operational stress times when, otherwise, you would be on a lunch break. You could offer to take your lunch break between 11:15 to 11:45 so you are working between 12 to 2, which is often a busy time for some roles. Obviously, this can be adjusted to apply to your unique situation. Try to think of what “gaps” you could potentially be fulfilling.

Demonstrate Collaboration

If you need, for example, accommodation for five days per week and you have found viable alternatives for one or two days/week, let the decision-maker be made aware of your actions to resolve the needs. This will show that you are participating in the process yourself and that you have taken effort to mitigate any perceived “burden” on the employer. 

Examples of alternative measures could be daycare, childcare, partner, relative, trusted friend/neighbour, “parent-pooling”, etc. You should explore as many reasonable options as possible and document your attempts. A manager, or whomever, should see this request as less of a “threat to the workplace “ if they know you have acted before making the request. Some decision makers might perceive these childcare accommodation requests as “taking advantage” and your efforts to self-accommodate might help the process. 

Next Steps

Hopefully the above proves successful and you obtain reasonable accommodation that allows you to meet your obligations as a parent and an employee. If you encounter resistance, you should document everything. If there is a failure, or refusal, to accommodate, we can help you. 

Intense, emotional negotiations with your employer can have severe negative consequences, and we recommend that you speak with one of our lawyers so we can help you navigate this process properly while ensuring that you know your rights and your obligations.

Employers should also speak with us in order to understand how to respond to requests for accommodation.  A failure to accommodate and/or reprisal would be a breach of the Code and could prove costly to the company. It is critical for an employer to know the law and to act in accordance with their legal obligations. If you are an employer dealing with a complex accommodation request, ask us for support. Rudner Law helps both employees and employers in these situations.

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