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Flexible working has been around for decades in one form or another and first became enshrined in UK employment law in 2003, originally for the parents of young or disabled children. It has since been extended to cover carers but the principles, and the benefits, of flexible working remain the same. Some organisations have chosen to take it a step further and offer the right to request flexible working to all employees.

What Does Flexible Working Mean?

Years ago, flexible working equalled part-time hours. Now, with the death of the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 working culture, organisations have had to become more flexible and responsive to deal with demand. Flexible working can be so much more than just a reduction in hours. You can look at job share, working from home, more hours over fewer days, a different shift pattern, phased retirement, almost any combination that works for both parties.

What do successful applications have in common? They all support the business and that’s the key element.

What Are the Benefits?

This could be an opportunity to focus your resources at the busiest times without having to go through major organisational change. Offering a wider variety of options for staff that will fit in with outside responsibilities, for example childcare, will help not only with retaining current, trained staff, but will be attractive to potential new recruits. Being seen as a supportive employer can only be good for the organisation’s reputation.

In current straightened times, employees accept it can be difficult to increase pay but benefits such as flexible working can be an attractive alternative.

When Can I Refuse It?

Under the legislation there are very specific reasons for refusing an application, which might make you feel you have no choice but to agree every application. This is not the case. Whilst the list is specific, it covers all the areas you need to consider for the successful running of your business. Will they be there when you need them most and is there work to be done during those hours? Can you reorganise the work amongst current staff or recruit someone to cover the extra hours? How much will it cost to implement any changes you might need, for example extra heating and lighting for office space? What will the impact on quality and performance be? Are there any changes coming that might affect the situation?

You may be wary about considering, and possible refusing, an application for flexible working but if you follow the legislative guidelines, meet the timescales, give any application serious and open-minded consideration, communicate and consult with staff and remain fair and objective, you should have a positive outcome. Even if you have to say no.


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