Flexible working has become more popular over recent years due to the changing needs of customers and employees. It’s valued by both employees and employers for the benefits it brings.
But what is flexible working? The term is used in many different ways which can be confusing. Our guide explains what it encompasses, the benefits, and how workers can request a change to working patterns.
There are many advantages to flexible working, which can benefit the business as well as the employees.
Flexible Working Advantages for Employers
Flexible working creates greater cost effectiveness and efficiency. Overheads can be reduced when employees Work From Home.
There can also be less downtime for machinery if 24 hour shifts are worked. It also attracts an increased skills base to the workforce. Offering flexibility around shifts means the business is able to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. There is also more job satisfaction and better Staff Morale.
It can also help staff retention. Many might otherwise leave due to other commitments, and being offered flexible hours means they can remain in their post.
Improved Work Life Balance
Many employers find that a better Work Life Balance has a positive impact on staff retention. It also supports employee relations, motivation and commitment.
A company can also remain more competitive if they adopt flexible working practices. A flexible workforce means they can react to sudden changes in market conditions more rapidly.
Flexible Working Advantages for Employees
Flexible working practices help staff fit in Family Commitments and activities around their hours of work. This is particularly useful for those who have children or who may have to care for others.
But other staff may find flexible working helpful too.
It can help people manage their workloads more effectively. The flexibility can also lessen the stress of long commutes to work. Many employers find that sickness and absence levels fall as a result.
Different Types of Flexible Working Arrangements
Flexible work patterns can be established in a variety of ways. They can include the following but there are numerous alternative flexible arrangements in addition:
- Part time working – workers are contracted to work less than the basic full-time hours.
- Flexi time – workers have the freedom to work in any way they choose outside a set of core hours established by their employer.
- Job sharing – one full time job is split between 2 workers who work out their shifts between themselves.
- Shift swapping – workers work out shifts amongst themselves but still ensure that all shifts are covered.
- Time off in lieu – workers take time off to suit to compensate for extra hours worked.
- Home working – workers spend all or part of their week working from home or somewhere else away from the office.
See also: Can I reduce my hours at work? – how to submit a flexible working request to reduce work hours.
The Law on Flexible Working Requests
From 30 June 2014 every employee has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment service.
Sometimes it can be near to impossible to keep up with normal office hours when juggling life as well. Commuting, childcare and health all become a little stretched, and a little impacted by busy working days.
Your mental health might be taking a bit of a knock and you need to make some work changes. All of these are valid reasons for requesting flexible working.
You do have to meet certain criteria to be eligible:-
- You must have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks.
- You are an employee in the legal sense of the word.
- This is your first request in the last 12 months.
Some companies have their own policy in place for such requests and you may not need to meet one or all of the above criteria.
When employers are considering the request for flexible working, they must do so fairly and reasonably. They should aim to have an answer within 3 months unless they have communicated this will take longer to the employee.
They should use the ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working Requests when making their decision.
Reasons for Refusal
An employer may not accept a flexible working request in all cases. However, a strict procedure must be followed. Only a set number of justifiable grounds would be acceptable in an employer’s decision to refuse the flexible working request.
If an employer can’t justify why they won’t allow flexible working, the employee can take them to an Employment Tribunal. More details about this can be found on the ACAS website.
- How to make a work from home request – our guide on requesting WFH and giving yourself the best chance of success.
- Full time working hours vs part time hours – a look at the different employment contracts, and employee rights.