16th July 2019
Could Flexible Working Benefit Your Business?
Many companies are trailblazing the way forward in developing how, where and when employees are expected to work in the delivery of their role. A legal outfit based in Plymouth have recently trialled a four-day working week arrangement which sees the office open later into the evenings, but closing Friday. The firm reported increased productivity and engagement amongst their team and the improved well-being of their staff has resulted in the arrangement becoming a permanent fixture.
Individually, different people are productive and creative at different times and playing to their strengths can significantly boost an employee’s performance. There are also strong practical reasons why someone may benefit from flexible working including managing childcare, balancing family life and eliminating travel time. Support from a caring and understanding company often promotes loyalty and engagement from the employee, raising productivity.
Flexible working is a particularly useful arrangement if the work tasks are project-led and the individual or team are required to complete assignments to deadlines. Technology has transformed the potential to effectively communicate remotely and the requirement to be in close physical proximity is no longer essential for many tasks.
Concerns about such a switch may be the potential detriment to the customer or trust issues that an employee would work as expected when unsupervised, although these are often illusory and are borne out of the insecurities of the employer.
All employees actually have a legal right to request flexible working. Employees must have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible to make a statutory application; the written request should set out what changes are being sought and how this may positively affect the business. The employer should arrange a timely meeting to discuss the application and consider the request in a ‘reasonable manner’.
The request may be refused only if there is a good business reason for doing so, as set out by ACAS. Failure to deal with the request in a reasonable manner may result in the employee taking the employer to an employment tribunal. There is no longer a statutory right to an appeal for the employee, but offering an appeal process is good practice to support the reasonable manner of proceedings.
Types of flexible working for consideration may include job sharing, working from home or various ways in which the hours worked are varied to better suit the employee. Any agreed changes will require amendment of the contract of employment to include and reflect the new terms and conditions set out between the parties.
It pays to be open-minded about flexible working, it provides an opportunity to survey and consult with employees, exploring whether flexible working may be of interest and benefit to them. Thinking about the type of arrangements that may improve performance and trialling them for a short period of time can be of huge benefit to an organisation.
Embracing flexible working may also demonstrate the company as industry thought-leaders, providing an excellent publicity opportunity to demonstrate positioning the business as a leader in recruitment, colleague engagement and satisfaction.