• Study reveals employees want flexible working arrangements

  • Can my business offer flexible working? – whats the legal stance, benefits and potential implications

The Taylor Review and its response are focussed on making the gig economy work better for individuals in flexible employment. However, the need for flexibility isn’t just something that only gig economy workers would want; it is also voiced by people employed in traditional workplaces.

What is flexible working?

A flexible working arrangement is when working hours are undertaken and times to suit employee needs. This could be done either by:

  • Flexibility with start and finish times
  • Part-time working
  • Term-time working
  • Working from home
  • Compressed or annualised hours
  • Zero-hours contracts

The legal bit

From April 2003 all employees have the ‘right to request flexible working’, this previously only applied to parents and carers. If your employee has been with you for more than 26 weeks, as an employer you have the duty to consider all flexible working requests and can only refuse on a basis of a legitimate business reason. All requests need to be handled in a ‘reasonable manner and timescale’, which requires you to:

  • assess the advantages and disadvantages of the application
  • hold a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
  • offer an appeal process

Employees are not legally entitled to appeal the decision, however, in order for the employer to demonstrate that the request has been handled reasonably, it is good practice to do so.

Benefits of flexible working

Flexible working can be a great retention tool, as well as a way to cater to ever-changing business needs. A recent survey conducted by YouGov revealed that only 6% of UK employees are working the traditional 9 to 5 and in fact, many prefer to work on a more flexible basis. With Brexit likely to exacerbate the skills shortage, it’s important that businesses get flexible working right now to avoid the loss of talent.

Other direct business benefits of flexible working could be a more effective use of office space and a more efficient fulfilment of customer demands.

There are also many indirect benefits that come from introducing flexible working, such as greater employee satisfaction and wellbeing coming from a better work-life balance. This in effect reduces stress and absence figures by supporting mental health, something that is currently a hot topic of conversation

Challenges of flexible working

Although flexible working seems to be more and more popular and is becoming a part of a modern workplace, it does not come without implications.

One of the challenges that flexible arrangements bring is that it can be difficult to manage your staff and their performance fairly and consistently. The process might become more time consuming, will need to be accurately measured and require more planning.

Team collaboration is at a risk of decline for flexible teams, especially for remote workers and when different members of one team work different shifts, as meeting arrangements can prove difficult.

There are many other aspects that will need to be taken into consideration when allowing your employees work from home, this could be making sure that they are aware of confidentiality, data security and ensuring that their health and safety is not compromised and appropriate risk assessments are conducted.

Minden U.K. Limited use Aspire Business Partnership LLP. This firm provide Minden U.K. Ltd with practical and commercially sound advice in relation to all aspects of compliance, business strategy and conflict resolution. Original article can be found on Aspire’s website: