Flexible Working

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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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In this guide, we'll look at what flexible working is, whether it's a statutory right, and how to introduce these working arrangements into your business.

In the modern business world, employees are seeking more control over their employment and the hours they spend working. One way they can do this is via flexible working, which comes in many forms - each with its own set of benefits.

Not allowing employees to work flexibly could make it harder for you to attract the best talent. Not to mention, it could lead your best staff to leave your business for a more flexible role elsewhere.

In this guide, we'll discuss the different types of flexible working, the benefits they can bring to your business, and how to manage flexible working requests.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is an alternative to traditional working hours. It's the name given to any type of working pattern that's different from an employee's existing one.

These types of working patterns can include working from home, a flexible start or finish time, and even job sharing. Flexible working is becoming a key player in the modern business world as employees seek a more autonomous working life.

Different types of flexible working

There are many different types of flexible working that you can offer your employees - each one comes with its own set of benefits. Let's discuss them in more detail:

Part-time working

Part-time work is a form of flexible working where people work shorter hours and fewer days compared to other employees who work full time hours.

This form of working might be beneficial for employees with young families. Many of which choose to move to a part-time working pattern after maternity leave so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's might also be popular for any students that you have employed, as it can help them balance their studies and work.

Working from home or remote working

This form of flexible working is when employees work all or part of their working week at home, or a different location to their usual workplace.

Working from home or remote work can be beneficial to your staff as it saves them time and money on commuting. However, ensure anyone working remotely should be expected to work to the same standard they would do if they were in the office.

Staggered hours

Staggered hours are a type of flexible working where someone has different start and finish times than their colleagues. This can also include breaks and lunchtimes.

This flexible working arrangement can allow employees to balance their work with other commitments they have. For example if they need to drop their children off at school.

Job sharing

Job sharing is a type of working pattern where two employees share a full-time role. Both of them have the same responsibilities and share equal accountability for any success in the position.

For an employee, it can be advantageous - especially if they're looking to return to the same level of responsibility despite their growing family.

Compressed hours

Compressed hours is a working arrangement where an employee covers their contracted hours in fewer working days. This is opposed to part-time working or job share where their working hours are reduced.

This working schedule can sometimes involve taking one day off a week, such as a Friday - and working longer hours on the other four days to cover. This type of working pattern can be particularly beneficial to any employees who are studying for a master's degree whilst in employment.

Flexi-time

Flexi-time is a type of flexible working where an employee chooses when they start and end their working day, within agreed limits. Some people choose to take this option to work around childcare, or to make time for their hobbies.

However, they will work certain core hours. For example, many workplaces choose to make 10am to 4pm their core hours.

Annualised hours

Annualised hours is a form of flexible working that's similar to flexi-time, but on an annual basis. Employees will work a specified amount of hours over the year, but have added flexibility as to when those hours will be worked.

This type of working pattern should be listed within their employment contract as an hourly basis, rather than weekly or daily.

What are the benefits of working flexibly?

There can be many benefits to offering a flexible working pattern, such as increasing staff retention. But along with that, it might also have the following positives, such as:

  • Helps employees who have caring responsibilities.
  • Helps the work-life balance of your staff members.
  • Helps employees with childcare arrangements, especially during the school holidays.
  • Helps increase the productivity and overall happiness of your workforce.
  • Helps make your company more attractive to potential candidates, meaning you hire the best people.
  • Helps make employees feel less micromanaged.
  • Helps decrease the rate of absences as your employees have time to sort out emergencies when they occur.

What are the disadvantages of flexible working?

As well as the benefits, there can be disadvantages to offering flexible working hours - such as employees trying to take advantage of being away from the office. For example, they may take longer lunches when working from home.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Employees may lack motivation and morale if working by themselves at home.
  • It can make it more difficult to ensure company policies and procedures are being followed.
  • It can potentially lead to security and data breaches if working on a public Wi-Fi.
  • It can potentially hurt workplace culture, as relationships may be difficult to form.
  • It can make it difficult for employees to differentiate between their professional and personal lives, especially if they're working from home.

Can all employees request flexible working?

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working after they've worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. As a result of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 there will be changes to flexible working request process, once implemented.

In the meantime, employees can only make one statutory request for flexible working every 12 months.

How to make a flexible working request

When employees request flexible working, they're not legally required to fill out a specific form. But, for it to qualify as a statutory request, it must:

  • Be in writing and be dated.
  • Explain the proposed change the employee wants to make to their current working pattern.
  • Explain when they would like the change to come into force.
  • Explain what effect the proposed change will have on the company, and how they'll be managed.
  • Confirm that a previous request has not been made in the past 12 months.

It's also advisable to have a flexible working request form template within the employee handbook. This will make the whole process quicker and easier.

How to handle flexible working requests

You should handle any requests you have in a reasonable manner and with careful consideration, examples of these are:

  • Provide the employee with a decision within three months of the request being made.
  • Carefully consider the requests and the reasons behind them.

Ensure you follow the ACAS guide when handling flexible working requests. It sets out what you should do as good practice when considering these requests. Whilst they are not legally required, tribunals use them when deciding on relevant cases.

Their guidance is as follows:

  • Discuss the request with the employee without undue delay.
  • Make the employee aware if there's going to be a delay in their request being processed.
  • Carefully consider the request (as stated above). This includes looking at the benefits for both your business and the employee.

Can you refuse a flexible working request?

Yes, you are allowed to refuse a request for flexible working arrangements. But if you do so, you must give a permitted reason and not take longer than three months – unless an extension is agree to. Permitted reasons include:

  • The burden of additional costs.
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff.
  • An inability to recruit additional staff.
  • A detrimental impact on quality.
  • A detrimental impact on performance.
  • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work.
  • A planned structural change to your business.

However, before refusing their request, you may want to allow a trial period. Typically, employers choose a trial of three or six months of the new working arrangements before making a final decision.

Employees can appeal your final decision, and under ACAS guidance you must deal with an appeal as quickly as possible.

How to manage flexible working in your company

If you're looking to provide staff with more flexible working arrangements, it's important you know how to manage the situation correctly.

Let's discuss ways you can do this in more detail:

Create a flexible working policy

A good way to successfully manage flexible working in your company is to create a flexible working policy. Flexible working policies are included within the employee handbook, and make clear the arrangements and details for all types of flexible working.

For example, it should include:

  • How to request a flexible working arrangement.
  • The types of flexible working available.
  • Who is eligible to apply.
  • How to apply and meetings to follow.
  • The right to appeal.
  • Trailing of the flexible working arrangements.

Communicate with flexible workers

If you have employees who are working from home, remotely or hybrid working - it's important you keep in contact with them. This will ensure they don't become lonely and disenchanted from work.

You should set up weekly or even twice-weekly meetings to check in with their progress, and how they feel towards their work. Doing so will show your employees that you care about their health and wellbeing, even if you aren't in the office.

Make changes if required

Sometimes, the flexible working arrangements you have in place with an employee may not always turn out the way they thought it would. And if this is the case, then it's important you make changes where you reasonably can. But remember, they’re only allowed one statutory flexible working request per year.

Listen to the employee about what alterations you can make to the agreements for it to work more successfully. You should be open to all suggestions as this will help to further build your working relationships.

Get expert advice on flexible working from Peninsula

People are seeking more control of their lives when it comes to working. Which is why working flexibly has become more popular.

But, if you don’t implement it properly, it could have severe consequences for your business. Not to mention, if you unfairly refuse a flexible working request, you could face claims to an employment tribunal.

Peninsula offers you expert 24/7 HR advice and support to help you with flexible working. As well as providing further advice on managing a chronically absent employee. Contact us today on 0800 0282 420.

 

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