The employer’s guide to flexible working

Published on November 7, 2019 by Gemma Dale

The employer’s guide to flexible working

Here is the introduction to HR expert Gemma Dale's guide to flexible working for employers. You can download the full guide here:

Employer's flexible working guide

All employees may make a request for flexible working, for any reason they wish. It’s a right to ask for a different working pattern, but not a right to have that request agreed.

There is an increasing demand for more flexible forms of working, whether that is to undertake caring responsibilities, improve wellbeing or work-life balance, reduce commuting, pursue hobbies and study, or in advance of retirement. Many people simply don’t want to work in a rigid Monday-Friday, 9-5 type pattern – and employers cannot afford to ignore the demand for change.

Flexible working does present challenges for organisations – both practically and in terms of culture.  Instead of judging people by the hours that they work or how long they are in the office, it requires that people are judged for their contribution – what they deliver.

Types of flexible working

There are many forms of flexible working. It can include any working pattern outside of the norm for the particular organisation. This could be working part-time, but also includes job sharing, annualised hours, compressed hours (working full time hours over four days rather than five), term time only working, home working (part or full time), flexi-time, or variable hours.

At certain times of the year, flexible working requests often come from parents whose children are going to school for the first time, or whose childcare routines are changing. Handling a request well could be the difference between retaining a valued employee and losing them to a more flexible organisation.

The benefits of flexible working

There are many good reasons for organisations to support flexible working; it can attract and retain talent, improves employee engagement, can support inclusion and help to reduce the gender pay gap. It’s good for the environment and helps employees to achieve a positive work life balance.

Flexible working tips for employers

Flexible working is just one way that organisations can support, engage and retain working parents and carers – as well as everyone else! Here are a few tips to make flexible working a success:

  • Check your policy

    You don’t have to stick to the statutory framework – you can improve your policy by being more flexible about when and how often you accept requests.
  • Train your managers

    Managers should understand how to manage requests – but also how they might need to adapt their management style to manage flexible workers too. They need to have an awareness of the potential benefits to them, the employee and the organisation as a whole.
  • Make use of trial periods

    Often it isn’t clear how a flexible arrangement will work in practice, so encourage managers to try out options before they say no. Ensure your policy includes trial periods and that managers are aware of this useful tool.
  • If you are prepared to be flexible, say so in your recruitment adverts

Only around 11% of jobs are advertised as being suitable for flexible working – but many more people desire it. Opening up flexible working at the point of recruitment and advertising your jobs as suitable for flexible working can be a great way to attract talent to your organisation.

  • Explore your options

There are many forms of flexible working that can be undertaken successfully. There’s more to flexible working than working part-time! Your policy can detail the many different types of flexible working, but also make it clear that employees can ask for other patterns too.

More and more people are undertaking some of their working week from home. It’s good practice to have guidance around working from home so that employees are clear what is required of them, for example working hours, being contactable and what happens if they are unwell.

  • Share case studies of successful flexible working

Many employees might not even realise that they can ask for flexible working – or what sort of flexible working is available. If you have employees who are working flexibly, then ask for their permission to share their stories with others.

Promote the positive aspects of flexible working internally by appointing flexible working champions who can share information on making requests, benefits and successful implementation.

Want more tips from a senior HR professional on how to manage flexible working within your business? Download our full employer's guide to flexible working here.

Picture of Gemma Dale

Written by Gemma Dale

Gemma Dale is an experienced HR Director and CIPD Chartered Fellow. She is a regular speaker and writer on HR topics like employee engagement and social media.

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