Flexible working is increasingly popular for employees, so it makes sense for your business to consider offering it.
Whether it’s a change to shifts and rotas, or homeworking, you can improve employee relations considerably and increase workplace productivity.
So, what does your business need to know? Let’s start with the basics.
What is flexible working?
A flexible working definition is simply to say it’s a working method with changeable start and finish times. It can also include remote working.
Some typical types of flexible working include:
- Arranging some work from home days to provide a better work-life balance.
- Flexible working hours, which means changing the start and finish times for your employee. For example, if they ask to start work at 8am instead of 9am to improve their commute.
- Further flexi-hours, such as making their lunch breaks 30 minutes instead of an hour, so they can leave work early to collect their kids from school.
- Moving from full-time to part-time work.
- Job sharing, with two employees working across on full-time role.
- Term-time working, with staff taking time off with/without pay during a school summer holiday.
So, you may want to offer a flexi contract to help staff to work around your schedule more effectively.
And that can include “flexitime”. A flexitime definition is when more hours are worked one day and then you take them back on another day.
So, why do any of that? Well, there are benefits for you and your employees.
It allows staff to work around their personal commitments, while helping you to adapt to busy and quiet times.
How does flexible working work?
Employees make a flexible working request—you then consider whether to accept or reject it.
To do this, they have to provide a flexible working request letter to you. In this, the applicant should:
- State that it’s an application for flexible working.
- Date the document.
- Specify the date on which they’d like to start flexible working.
- Detail the change that’s requested.
- Explain the effects they think the change would have on your business.
- Explain how the employee thinks how you can deal with the effects.
- State whether there are any previous applications for flexible working and the date for these.
However, not all staff can make a request. They need a certain amount of service with you.
To have flexible working rights, the staff member must have 26 weeks' continuous employment, and hasn't made a statutory request in 12 months, they can request flexible working (such as working from home).
Technically, a flexible working request is a change of contract terms and conditions, so it should be in writing.
You can find flexible working legislation on the official gov.uk website. So long as they’re eligible to make a claim, they can send you a statutory application.
You can establish a flexible working policy to make your stance as clear as possible. Again, you’re not under any pressure to accept any requests. But you need to provide sound business reasons for the refusal of a statutory request.
But in your policy you can explain your business’ standing. And the likelihood of allowing any flexibility in your working day.
Do employers have to offer flexible working?
There’s no flexible working law you have to stick to. Legally, you don’t have to offer it to your staff. However, your employees have flexible working rights. And that’s to make a statutory application for flexible working.
So, yes, employees have the right to request flexible working.
While you do have to acknowledge their request, and handle it in a reasonable manner, you don't have to accept it.
When discussing the possibility of an employee working from home—if they've requested it—you can ask them about their reasons.
Accepting their request to help them manage family commitments, or cater to a medical condition, shows your staff their well-being matters to you. This can increase their loyalty to your business.
You don’t have to agree to the request. But you must be proactive and at least consider it.
If a flexible working request is declined, you should offer a chance for staff to appeal your decision.
And remember, it’s a big perk for staff in the modern business world.
If you accept the request, it can go a long way to improving your staff’s work-life balance. In turn, that can make them happier and more productive employees.
In fact, most modern research shows that staff actively expect flexible working opportunities.
Flexible working and maternity leave
If the employee is eligible to claim, then they can make a flexible working request after maternity leave.
You should ask them to provide as much notice as possible for this, so you can ensure it fits in with your requirements.
Of course, flexible working jobs for mums is important as they may need to attend to their child for appointments with doctors or other childcare needs.
So, you should review a request carefully as the staff member does have a strong requirement to have flexible hours. Refusing can lead to a potential sex discrimination claim in an employment tribunal.
You can also consider term-time only contracts as well, where the employee works for only the periods that don’t clash with school terms.
This provides extra freedom a few years down the line when the employee’s child enters school.
Benefits of flexible working
Employees enjoy the perk thanks to the work-life balance improvements. It frees up their time and allows them to attend to important life matters.
Or simply removes the need for often stressful daily needs, such as making a long commute to your business.
That’s one of the biggest drains on a staff member’s wellbeing, as it costs a lot of money, and can wear them down.
But with flexible working, they can improve their commute with start times that avoid rush hours. Or remove it entirely with homeworking opportunities.
The net result for your business is flexible working arrangements can provide advantages such as:
- Extend your operating hours for greater productivity.
- Improve staff morale and engagement.
- Decrease absenteeism.
- Attract top talent—employees actively look for the best perks.
Track your flexible workers with HR software
By using our HR software, you’ll be able to update documents to reflect changes in your flexible working procedure.
Your employees will also be able to keep themselves in the loop as they’ll have easy access to relevant documents.
With our software, you can do the following:
- Update shifts and rotas with ease.
- Approve holiday requests on the go.
- Fully modernise your business for flexible working requirements.
- Track furloughed staff in with our back to work navigator.
Ultimately, HR software can help you to establish flexitime that works for your employees.
This ensures they can establish the work-life balance they require, while you benefit as a business from happier staff for a productive workforce. Call us on 0800 470 2432 if you want further details.
Frequently Asked Questions about Work Flexibility
Our clients ask loads of questions about work flexibility, so we’ve answered some of the most common ones below.
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What is work flexibility?
Work flexibility is the willingness to be change the way you work.
This applies to both staff being able to adapt to change, and employers providing a flexible workplace that meets the individual needs of employees.
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