Making Flexible Working Work For Everyone

Posted: Monday December 16 2019

By: Charlotte Ashton

In the UK, over the past two decades flexible working has increased to the extent that five times as many people now work flexibly. Much of this rise is attributable to the various legal changes which have given more rights to employees to request flexible working patterns. Flexible working continues to be an important issue, reflected by political parties aiming to give further legal rights for employees to request flexible working. In addition, the cost of office space, difficulty commuting, and technology improving all serves to make flexible working an attractive option, benefiting many employees, not just those looking to balance work around families.

Making Flexible Working Work For Everyone

In order for flexible working to be successful for everyone, both employees and employers need to think creatively, be open-minded, and have a positive attitude about potential flexible working opportunities.

Employees, when considering making a flexible working request, may be concerned about a number of issues. For example they might find it tricky to know how to approach their employer to request a flexible working pattern. They might be concerned about the employer’s reaction to their request and also about what effect a flexible working pattern might have on their ability to remain part of a team at work. They may also not fully understand their rights around the statutory flexible working request procedure or laws which protect them.

Employers, on the other hand, may be concerned about how to manage any requests along with ensuring they can remain in control of staff levels, and ensure they can properly monitor performance.

With that in mind, we’ve put together some tips for employees and employers, so that everyone can approach flexible working in a positive manner.


Tips for Employees

Fully plan your idea in advance of approaching your employer about it. Have you considered what hours you want to do, what days, whether you want to be flexible about the days or whether you need a new fixed working pattern? By putting your mind to all the possibilities, you will be able to have a full discussion with your employer about your proposals.

Consider alternatives in case your idea is not possible with the employer. For example, instead of working fewer days are you able to do fewer hours with where your start and end times are changed to work around childcare?

Consider the positives and the negatives of your request. How can you counteract any perceived negatives on the employer’s behalf? Being prepared in advance means that you can answer any questions and show you have fully considered how your request will affect the rest of the team and business.

Tips for Employers

Be proactive! Instead of waiting for an employee to come to you to request flexible working make it clear to your employees that you are happy to consider flexible working and maybe give some ideas about what requests they could make.

Be inventive! Instead of only seeing flexible working as someone working fewer hours or changing their start times or working days, perhaps consider whether compressed hours work (where an employee works all their weekly hours in fewer days) or whether working fewer hours stretched over more days works better for the business. What about remote working as an alternative to reducing hours? Consider what aspects of working a full time week in the office or workplace might cause employees difficulties and how could you work to minimise these. Also be creative as to how you want to manage employees who might not be present in the office as often. Consider how you can implement new ways of monitoring performance and productivity.

See how things work in practice. If you are concerned about how a new pattern will work try and agree a trial period with the employee rather than reject the request so you can see the effect on the rest of the business before making a final decision. You might be surprised with how things work out!

As mentioned above, there are laws around the right for employees to request flexible working. As an employer, if an employee has made a valid request under the statute procedure you are only able to turn down requests for flexible working on the basis of one of eight business reasons. This can be quite tricky and is why it is imperative that the employer and employee approach these discussions in a cooperative and flexible manner so that neither side has to resort to formal legal action about the request.

For further advice on all things to do with flexible working requests please get in touch with Charlotte who is happy to go over any issues you may have.