Do you have the opportunity to offer flexible working to your employees? Do you know the benefits of integrating this into your company?
Flexible working requests can be made from anyone who has 26 weeks of continuous service. A business can accept the request in full, or decline it as long as there are reasonable grounds for doing so and follows the rules about timescales and notice. The acceptable reasons for rejecting such a request include the effect on quality, performance and the ability to meet customer needs, but you do need to take the request seriously – and you may find that it’s of benefit to the business in any case.
Flexible working can be a benefit for many working parents or those with caring responsibilities as it provides the flexibility to organise working days and hours across the week, arranging them around school hours or other commitments. Other possible ways to work flexibly include;
- Job share
- Working from home
- Part time
- Compressed hours
- Annualised hours
- Staggered hours
Having the option to work flexibly can improve job satisfaction and morale. A People Management survey shows 59% of women think flexible working would help their career progression and 43% of working mothers say they do not have enough flexibility. Also, even though it is available to them 46% of working fathers do not take advantage of flexible working.
When the right to request flexible working was first introduced, it was intended for those with caring responsibilities, although any employee with the required service can now request a change in working pattern. Agreeing more flexible working hours can be useful in seeking to make reasonable adjustments for staff with medical conditions and is a positive mechanism for supporting work-life balance. However, any request should be considered with both the positive and potential detrimental consequences fully considered. Agreeing to too much flexibility in working patterns can lead to problems and can affect Company productivity, particularly where approval is not carefully controlled. For example, there has been an increase in the number of requests for certain days off – particularly Mondays and Fridays which then gives a long weekend, every weekend which is extremely attractive. It can, however, add to the burden of employers who have reported an increase of empty offices over these 2 days, which ultimately could impact on quality and have a detrimental impact on the customer.
What is “The Flex-Appeal”?
A popular blogger has taken it upon herself to be an advocate for flexible working. Mostly supporting working parents and carers for adults and children. Anna Whitehouse (blog writer www.motherpukka.co.uk) strongly promotes flexi-working for all. Her main points being;
- Attracting and retaining staff. The idea of flexible working to a parent or a carer can make the job role seem much more attractive to those with rigid working shifts. It also demonstrates a progressive and forward-thinking company that is willing to listen to employees.
- Saving rent on offices (and energy costs). Having a portion of your staff working from home can decrease your overheads and allow for investment elsewhere. This seems to be a ‘winning all round’ type of situation. Technology means that people can perform many of the functions of their jobs, including ‘attending’ meetings, from home, or elsewhere.
- Improving productivity. Reports show individuals who work from home routinely work more hours overall which can benefit the company.
We would also add that the benefits include:
- It gives more scope for amending working hours for those employers looking to extend the time available to respond to customer queries, enabling people to work flexibly at either end of the day might also give a better service to customers.
- Reduced rates of absenteeism and sickness, often caused by employees being unable to successfully balance work and personal commitment, which then leads to stress and absence.
- The push towards flexible working can give your company a competitive edge to show you are in support of working families and carers and this can work greatly in your favour.
- Increased retention – Childcare costs can wipe out any money earnt with some families deciding it is cheaper for one parent to stay at home. Although this is more frequently applicable to women, increasing reports are showing that many working fathers are missing out on school activities and general family time.
What do you need to know?
To ensure fair treatment, flexible working should be available throughout the workforce, although particular job roles will determine if flexible working is appropriate.
There are principles which, if followed, will ensure that you stay within the law on flexible working. Employment tribunals will be looking to see that employers:
- Speak to employees making a request as soon as possible after receiving it. You must make a decision within twelve weeks.
- Have this discussion in private and allow for him/her to be accompanied
- Inform of the decision as soon as possible
- If agreed, discuss when changes will take place
- If rejected, inform the employee formally with an explanation – it has to be for one of the business reasons permitted by legislation; and
- if the request is rejected, allow the employee to appeal the decision.
Although in some industries flexible working is not always appropriate there are often ways around this and, dependent on the industry that you operate in, the benefits can often outweigh the disadvantages. Put some parameters in place which specify the business’ core hours, guiding managers to support flexible staff to achieve their work objectives and trusting staff to complete the work will provide a framework within which flexible working can be effective and beneficial. A company that promotes a healthy work-life balance that works for everyone will increase staff retention and overall happiness in the workplace, which, if managed correctly, will positively affect the customer.
If you would like more information on introducing flexible working, please give our consultants a call on 01206 700 690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org