Since June 30th 2014, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working from their employer. This request must be dealt with in a reasonable way by the employer, the advantages and disadvantages being considered and discussed. As an employer, your first impression may automatically be a negative one, but this shouldn’t be the case as there are many advantages to flexible working for both the employee and business.
What is flexible working?
There are many types of flexible working, it’s not simply a case that the employee picks their workpattern. These include:
- Job sharing – one position is split between 2 people
- Part time – working less hours than that of a full time contract
- Working from home – working out of the office, this may not necessarily be at home, it could be elsewhere if suitable
- Compressed hours – working more hours per day, but fewer days
- Flexitime – the employee works set ‘core’ hours but is able to choose their daily start and finish times
- Annualised hours – the employee has to work a set number of hours per annum, but has flexibility on which times they work
- Staggered hours – employee start and finish times are different to those of their colleagues
- Phased retirement – as the default retirement age has been phased out, older employees can change or reduce their hours
What are reasons that the request could be declined?
Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:
- extra costs which will damage the business
- the work can’t be reorganised among other staff
- people can’t be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will affect quality and performance
- the business won’t be able to meet customer demand
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
Why might an employee request flexible time and what are the benefits?
There are many reasons why a request for flexible time may be made by an employee. It might be due to family commitments, such as child care, or simply to avoid long commutes to and from the office.
Whatever the reason may be to make the request, if an employee is working the hours and times that are more suited to their personal needs, then they’ll feel more in control of their working life and, as a result, be a more engaged and content employee.
Every employee is an individual and will be more productive at certain times of the day. Some employees will naturally wake up and be more alert in the early hours, while others will work better in the afternoon. Allowing employees the flexibility to work the hours when they do the best job is of benefit to both the workforce and the employer.
Flexible hours may also reduce the costs incurred by employees for things such as travel and childcare. Having a greater disposable income, however much the difference may be, improves the employee’s quality of life and happiness as a result.
What are the benefits to the employer?
If employees are afforded the ability to work the hours that suits them (and considers their individual needs) then they’ll be more engaged and committed to the success of the business. It is often seen that flexible time reduces absenteeism and lateness as well as overall turnover. This in turn improves overall productivity while reducing the recruitment costs incurred replacing staff.
A brand that is seen to be flexible and in touch with its employees needs is also held in higher regard by potential talent. In the current climate, finding top talent is a challenge in itself and this type of scheme can only enhance the employer brand.
By allowing flexible time, a business extends its potential talent pool to those applicants that may not be able to travel to the office everyday, but as the role can be completed without the requirement of being in the office they become suitable.
Companies now have a responsibility to show that they consider the environment wherever possible. By allowing employees to work from home or work hours that allow them to travel in a more environmentally considerate way, they can help to cut carbon emissions.
With the above options available, most businesses should be able to cater for their employee needs and responsibilities, both in and outside of the office. Allowing employees some flexibility regarding their hours is an effective tool to improve employee engagement and, as a result, productivity and wellbeing. With the ever increasing concern by employees over their work/life balance, it’s more important than ever that brands are seen to be open and empathetic to their employee’s needs.
Applicants are now not only looking for companies that offer such benefits, but fully expect this type of scheme and it does now affect which brands they apply for a position in.
What tools can help?
Reference and further reading: https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview