An effective and efficient workforce is key to the success of any business and is reliant on having the right people with the necessary skills and experience to carry out the required tasks. Many employers are unsure how to deal with a request for flexible working, often believing incorrectly that only parents with young children can apply for flexible working. Employers often view flexible working as a challenge rather than an opportunity.
A recent survey has found that nine-to-five working is no longer the norm, as two-thirds (66 per cent) of UK employees would rather start and finish earlier, of the 2,000 employees surveyed just 6% currently worked these hours. (People Management, 2018) and just 14% of employees would choose to work these hours.
Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive and co-chair of the government’s Flexible Working Task Force, said the findings show employers need to be receptive to employees’ needs and avoid a narrow view of what a working day looks like. “Flexible working is a growing preference for lots of people and provides opportunities to work for many who have other commitments or constraints that make it hard for them to work traditional working patterns”.
Cheese added that employees with access to flexible working arrangements were more likely to be satisfied with, and committed to, their organisation. But he noted uptake of flexible working is still low and most jobs are not advertised as being open to different working arrangements.
“Employers need to take charge, putting flexible working options in place and improving behaviours and attitudes towards flexible working to create a win-win for individuals and organisations,” he said.
Claire McCartney, CIPD diversity and inclusion advisor, agreed that senior leaders needed to reassess their recruitment and working practices to cater for workers’ expectations.
“Flexible working can be a great tool for organisations to be responsive and agile to market changes,” she said. “In a tight labour market, with substantial skills shortages, it also means that those employers who offer flexibility at the point of hire are more likely to attract the talent they need for their organisations to survive and thrive.”
McCartney added that by offering flexible work, organisations can also tap into more diverse talent pools, whose workers may find it difficult to stick to more traditional arrangements.
- Attract the correct applicants
Work has changed dramatically with the technology advances of the 21st century allowing for home working, remote working and hours being worked out with the nine-to-five. By implementing and offering flexible working there is a huge opportunity for innovative businesses to grow the diversity within their talent pool and increase their competitive advantage. The UK is already facing a skills gap and if a business is not offering the most competitive benefits, including flexible working, recruiting the best candidates may suffer greatly. In addition, the cost of replacing staff is estimated to be up to £30,000.
- Increase in productivity
A recent report published by The Work Foundation highlighted that 2020 flexible working is likely to be the main way of working for more than 70% of employees and if employers want it to work for their business they need to develop flexible working practices. Of 2000 employees surveyed from small and medium-sized businesses, public sector organisations and multinational corporations (MNCs) in 10 countries 61% of respondents said that their company’s profits increased, 83% reported an improvement in productivity and 58% believed that flexible working practices had a positive impact on their organisation’s reputation.
- Employees’ rights to request flexible hours – and how employers should deal with it
Changes in the law in June 2014 meant that staff could apply for flexible working even if they didn’t have children or acted as someone’s carer.
Now any employee who has 26 weeks’ continuous service is entitled to make one written request for flexible working within a 12-month period. There are exceptions though, for example, if they are a member of the armed forces or an agency worker. However, if they are an agency worker who has employee status, has been continuously been employed for a period of no less than 26 weeks or is returning to work from maternity or paternity leave they will be able to make a request.
As an employer, you should have a set policy in place that can be accessed by all your employees. All applications for flexible working should be made directly from employee to employer and stick to what is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Where a request for flexible working is accepted by the business it must be documented appropriately and reviewed with the employee.
- Rejecting a request for flexible working
If a business decides to reject an application for flexible working there are several reasons which may apply. They may of course by genuine valid reasons but the business should also consider that more flexible working models are being implemented across all UK businesses now and where the employer cannot offer such practices it may have a detrimental effect.
If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.