The Prime Minister has targeted all jobs to be advertised as flexible from day 1 by 2020. Are you #happytotalkflexibleworking?
In response to the productivity challenge faced by the UK, the changing demographic of the workforce and the findings of Good Work : The Taylor Review of Working Practices, there is a movement calling for organisations to promote, embrace and adopt flexible working arrangements to attract and retain skilled workers at all levels of organisations. There’s even a task force comprising government departments, business groups, professional bodies, charities and trade unions which encourages employers to raise awareness and benefits of flexible working, encouraging employers to advertise jobs as flexible by using the strapline Happy to talk flexible working, regardless of level or paygrade. *
So what is flexible working? A whole host of working patterns are considered as flexible working arrangements. From part time hours (short days or short weeks), to condensed hours (working your full weekly hours but over a reduced number of days), to annualised hours (working your full annual hours but doing more in busy times and less in quieter times), term-time contracts (where you don’t work the school holidays), job shares (where two people cover one job between them, often on a 50/50 basis), working from home either permanently or on agreed days per week, the list goes on.
In 2014, all employees were given the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ service. Despite this, the number of employees working flexibly has plateaued since 2010 with many businesses, large and small, saying that it’s just too hard to tackle.
The rewards are unquestionable though. Employees working flexibly cite being significantly more loyal to their employer, increasing retention, job hunters are attracted to firms with flexible working and organisations benefit from attracting talent that may otherwise look elsewhere when prepared to demonstrate a flexible approach to working hours and location.
It’s unlikely that the target of advertising all jobs as flexible by 2020 will be achieved, however, as Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD and co-chair of the flexible working task force says, “perhaps the future and the promises of technology will enable us all to work fewer hours, and flexible working to suit both business and individual needs will eventually become the norm. Now is the time to make flexible working a positive attribute of your workplace.”
My employee wants to work flexibly – what should I do?
- For your employee to make this request, they must have been employed by you for at least 26 weeks, have not made a request to work flexibly in the last 12 months and have put the request in writing.
- Their request should indicate the change they would like to make to the way they work, the reasons they wish to do this and how they believe it can work for all parties.
- The employer should give the request reasonable consideration and can only reject it on one (or more) specific grounds including cost, inability to meet customer demands, lack of available work at requested time of working (e.g. evenings/weekends), planned structural changes, impact on quality or performance etc.
- The employer should respond to the employee in writing (and also ideally in a face to face meeting) as soon as possible and no later than 3 months after the request is made to explain the decision and to agree next steps. E.g. one outcome may be a trial period with a review at the end of it.
- If the flexible working request is approved then this becomes a permanent change and an updated contract of employment should be drawn up and signed by both parties. If a trial period is in place then the new contract should only be issued if the change is agreed, after the trial has concluded.
- No further flexible working request can be made by the employee within 12 months of the date of the last request.
Note – the law currently puts the onus on the employee to convince the employer of the efficacy of the proposal however the employer has to have justified reason to say no otherwise they may find themselves involved in more formal, legal proceedings.