Putting a case together

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Putting a case together

To prepare a case you must decide on the most appropriate approach.

For general workload issues the best tactics are either to take a team case, or to enlist your colleagues' support in advance. Consider using someone else as a sounding board to test your case – a union representative will help in confidence.

If your line manager isn't happy to progress your requests for change get together with your colleagues and ensure that your views are passed up the management chain.

If you want to change the pattern of your work, or work from home, make sure you have the relevant agreement to hand – your union rep will have copies. Think about costs and benefits both to you and your employer.


Confident communications are clear, honest and direct. They enable people to get what they want without interfering with the rights of others.

Make sure you make maximum use of your work skills to get what you want – presentation, letter writing, negotiating and communicating.

But the difference comes from confidence in yourself – self-belief, self assurance, self possession, self-esteem – and doing things with confidence, purpose, determination and conviction.

The broken record

If necessary, you can use a technique called 'broken record', which reinforces your message until it is understood. You can repeat the same line using some of the following:

  • Perhaps I'm not being clear...
  • Let me say it again...
  • But the point is...
  • As I said...

You can use this technique at any time when someone is blocking you or trying to divert you.

Typical scenarios

1. You want to control your working hours

Your working hours record shows that you regularly work 50 hours a week. Think about how you spend that time. Map out an average week and find out how many extra hours are you putting in. Talk to your colleagues – are they experiencing similar problems? Think about solutions to the problems, preferably as a team – people always respond better to a solution.

Some pointers could include:

  • Could economies of scale be gained by one person doing a particular task across the team?
  • How much of your time is being spent travelling? Could the frequency of meetings be reduced? Could you use an alternative to meetings? Are last minute diary changes by someone else causing you (and many others) to waste time? Could you delegate some meetings?
  • Prioritise meetings and conference calls – attend some and not others. Get people to come to you.
  • Could meetings or calls be more efficient? Agree to set hard end times.
  • Do you have too many staff to manage?
  • Are workloads evenly spread?
  • Is there too much paperwork with little product? Could something be changed or dropped altogether?
  • Could deadlines be staggered?
  • If there are peaks and troughs in the workload, could TOIL be planned for the quieter periods?
  • Is it a resourcing problem? If so, you can probably enlist the support of your line manager in making the case for either additional resources or altering priorities.
  • Is there an opportunity to agree to restrict late working?
  • Getting a debate on the issue as a team can make a difference simply in creating awareness of the issues. Therefore getting the support of colleagues should be your starting point.

If you reach a dead-end, talk to your union rep about how you can progress the issue further. This may mean making formal representations to higher levels of management.

2. You want to work reduced hours

Do your research and prepare your case first. There is more detailed guidance on making a flexible working request on the taking control page of this campaign site.

In the first place ask your line manager face to face. Explain why you want to make this change and make sure you have a copy of the relevant agreement to hand if there is one.

If they seem uncertain or likely to refuse, ask them to obtain guidance from personnel before making a decision.

If you are a parent who has young children remind your line manager that requests to work reduced hours or work flexibly must be given full consideration.

If such requests are dismissed out of hand, or not based on clear, objectively justified business needs, you could have a legal case. If your request is turned down, speak to your representative immediately.

3. You need to take some time out to cope with outside issues

Consider what you need. Could working from home for a while help? Could working different hours help? Working reduced hours may be an option or you could agree different start and finish times or perhaps work from home on an occasional basis.

Have you a back-log of time off in lieu to use up? If so, use it – remember this may be part of your contract of employment.

There is a legal right to time off for dependants in emergency situations. If you need a block of time off to cope with a specific crisis or to nurse a sick relative – most good employers will provide paid leave in these circumstances.

If you want or need to take a longer period away from work – perhaps at the end of your maternity leave – ask for unpaid special leave or, if you qualify, ask for parental leave.

If you have an application for special leave refused, talk to your representative. It may be that you can get a shorter period agreed with the understanding that you are likely to want to extend it.

Special leave is available for a wide range of domestic problems or other circumstances. For the full details of special leave consult any relevant employer documentation, or seek advice from the union.