Many of us struggle with managing a family and a career. School days, educational opportunities, and extracurricular activities aren’t in sync with typical business hours. As a result, parents often have to make difficult decisions or come up with creative solutions in an attempt to “do it all,” which can be very stressful.
I recently met a woman who was struggling with this work-life juggle. Her daughter had the chance to participate in an educational opportunity, but it would mean dropping her off at a time that would result in her being late to work once a week. She noted that some of her colleagues are provided with the accommodation of coming in late, and assumed the same would be true for her. However, she wasn’t privy to the basis for their accommodation, and when she approached her supervisor to request an accommodation, she was denied.
Although this seems unfair, it may not be an actionable claim. There are really no rights for employees to receive an accommodation other than for a personal or family medical reason. That being said, many employers are beginning to recognize the importance of work-life balance and understand that a happy employee is a loyal and productive employee. Given this, there is a chance a reasonable request will be granted, if asked for in the right way. Below are some suggestions on how to make the case for a work-life balance accommodation:
It’s all in the presentation.
First, polish the presentation of your request. Don’t assume your request is no big deal and that you should be able to take breaks or change your work schedule. For a manager, it can be a daunting task to keep track of varying schedules, and they will also have to think about granting the same accommodation to other employees who make a similar request. Be sure to present your request by thinking ahead and proactively addressing your manager’s concerns. For example, in exchange for the option to arrive late once a week, make an offer in exchange, such as: staying late once a week; taking on a project no one really wants; or making up the work time another way. Also, be sure to highlight if this is a short-term request, and let your manager know that you will keep the accommodation confidential.
Use what you have.
If you are already granted breaks throughout the day, suggest grouping them together to take care of your family needs. Some employers will allow you to use vacation time in shorter increments, which you could schedule for these days. Other employers may allow the accommodation if it is unpaid. Take a look at your company handbook to find out what benefits you already have in order to come up with a solution.
Timing is key.
It’s probably not a good idea to ask for an accommodation during your company’s busy season, or right before a major project deadline. Try to make your request when you know your manager will be most receptive and in a good mood. Keep in mind the best time to ask for flexibility is when you are accepting a new position, or alternatively, come review time.
Sometimes an employer’s culture is just not conducive to providing work-life accommodations, and we can either accept that, or look for work elsewhere. However, if your colleagues are being granted various accommodations and you are being denied for a similarly reasonable request, or are suffering harsh treatment thereafter, you may have a legal claim worth exploring. Take the time to determine if you are interested in pursuing a claim related to these matters. If you are, your next steps would be to reach out to an employment attorney to explore your options.