It was almost 38 years ago that Dolly Parton sang about how working 9-5 wasn’t a way to make a living – so why are there still so many employers reluctant to embrace flexible working?

Employers say: “If I do it for one I’ll have to do it for everyone”, we say: “so, do it for everyone”. Since June 2014, all employees who have completed more than 26 weeks continuous service have the right to request a flexible working pattern. As an employer you are not legally required to grant any requests but you do have a responsibility to be reasonable and give the matter genuine consideration where possible.

What has to be taken into account when considering a flexible working request?

Often employers can be put off from discussing flexibility as they believe a non-traditional way of working can’t work with their business model of set hours etc. We’re here to tell you that flexibility can be offered in a variety of ways and we’re positive that there will be an option that suits you and will be beneficial to your employees. Here are some examples;

  • Working Part-time hours
  • Job sharing with a colleague
  • Working in term time only allowing time off during school holidays
  • Working from home
  • Compressed hours – working the same amount of hours over fewer days
  • Flexi time – adapting start and finish times to suit
  • Annual hours contract – allows employees to choose how they will work their hours
  • Taking a career break

It’s obvious what advantages the above would bring to an employee but it’s not quite so clear why as a business owner you should be considering implementing a flexible approach to working.

The advantages to an employer

  • Offering flexible working to your team can have a great impact on retaining your staff and it will make you even more attractive when recruiting new employees. It will make you stand out against competitors and means you are more likely to entice a talented, top calibre candidate. Also, this competitive advantage means you open yourself up to a larger pool of candidates to choose from.
  • Motivation, morale, loyalty, commitment are all likely to increase when offering flexible working to your existing employees. You may be giving them the opportunity to take up a new hobby or spend more time with their family. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what they would do with their flexible time but more that you value and encourage them to have a better work-life balance.
  • Think about your employer brand. Are your employees more likely to recommend working for someone who cares about their staff enough to offer flexibility? We think so, and this all adds to creating a strong, positive brand image.
  • It’s worth considering that allowing flexible working patterns can lead to businesses reducing their overhead costs.

HR considerations when introducing flexible working

Hopefully, the benefits to both employees and employers are obvious, and so before you go and announce that everyone can have Fridays off there are a few HR actions to consider before discussions take place.

Raise awareness amongst your staff, and in particular your managers. They need to be aware of the impact it could have on the business; and you need to allow them time to raise any concerns and educate people on the advantages it can bring. There may be a need for training – your line managers may need support on how to manage in a different way and you need to ensure they are treating staff fairly.

If you receive a request you will need to have a process in place that ensures you are taking into account all legislation not just flexible working. Be mindful of equality and discrimination. You need to be consistent with your flexibility across the board and remain unbiased.

Here’s the questions you need to be asking yourself when a request for flexible working lands on your desk.

  • Will it bring a burden of additional costs?
  • Are you able to reorganise work amongst existing staff?
  • Will you be able to recruit additional staff?
  • Will it have a detrimental impact on quality?
  • Will it have a detrimental impact on performance?
  • Will it have a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand?
  • Will there be sufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work?

A flexible working request must not be rejected for any other reason than those above.

Are you interested in finding out how you can find and keep the right people for the future success of your business, and how flexible working pays its part in this?

If so, why not come along to our business breakfast seminar on the 26th September 2018, 8am-10.30am in Basingstoke? You will also have the opportunity to hear from our keynote speaker, Roger Roberts – former HR Director of Tesco. Find out more and register your interest