Flexible working offers a pattern of working that balances business needs with those of employees. It is an alternative to the more traditional idea of set working times, and can include earlier or later start and finish times, and time working remotely
The traditional view on flexible working is that it is only for mothers or fathers who require altered working hours around childcare commitments, or else for carers. However, research from Timewise suggests that 87% of full time workers already work flexibly, or would like to do so.
Long hours, pressure, and the rapid pace of work can all take their toll on staff and lead to stress and burnout, which could cost your business in the long run. This could result in low productivity, heightened levels of absence, and even spiralling staff attrition numbers.
Flexible working could give your staff more freedom to choose the hours they work, and the location in which the work takes place. This may seem somewhat counterintuitive for a small business where productivity is key, but the research by Timewise shows that full-time employees want flexibility. By offering flexible working patterns to prospective employees, your business will be more attractive to potential talent, whilst simultaneously helping to build a happier workforce, as well as increasing productivity and retention rates.
Of course, there are pros and cons to flexible working, and a research paper for ACAS highlights the Implications of flexible work arrangements for individuals, teams and organisations. It is important to weigh up these points when deciding on a flexible working policy for your business.
Any employee with 26 week’s continuous service with a business can make a single written request for flexible working within a 12-month period. This also applies to agency workers who have employee status, or to an employee returning to work from maternity or paternity leave.
As an employer, it is important that you set out a policy on flexible working that your staff can access easily. If an employee wishes to make an application to you for flexibility in their working pattern, the Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out what must be included.
Any request for flexible working should:
You should acknowledge all requests made by your employees in writing, and within three months of the date of their request.
Ensuring that your flexible working policy is fully accessible, and that you can effectively keep track of flexible working requests and agreements can be a full-time job in itself. So too can planning your staff rotas around being flexible with your employees, and this is where an effective HR software solution can really help manage the process.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Not all requests for flexible working will work for your business, and whilst it pays to give as much flexibility as you can, there are circumstances in which you can refuse a request. These include:
If you do decide to refuse an employee’s application, you should tell them as soon as possible, citing which of the reasons above applies and why.
Normally when thinking of flexible working, there is a tendency to think it means moving working hours, e.g. 9am-5pm to 8am- 4pm, or 10am-6pm. In reality, there are a number of different ways to organise working flexibly:
The world is changing, and rules and regulations are adapting too. Technology is making it easier for employees to work from anywhere, and this is leading to more and more people embracing the idea of flexible working. Research shows that a workforce with flexibility is a happier and more productive one, so it is important for employers to consider the impact of flexible working, and to ensure that they manage it effectively to continue to get the best from their teams.