An employers guide to flexible working. Part 1: What are the options

An employers guide to flexible working. Part 1: What are the options?

Welcome to the first post in our new series for employers – a guide to everything you need to know about flexible working.

If you’re part of a growing organisation and you’ve realised that to get the skills and expertise you need on an affordable budget you’re going to have to think differently, and more flexibly, about recruitment, then read on.

So why do you need to know about flexibility? According to the Office of National Statistics there are about 8 million part-time workers and 4 million people who usually work from home in the UK. What’s more, another 8.7 million – two in five – would like some form of flexibility[i].

New legal right and increasing demand

Traditionally thought of as the domain of working mothers and others with caring responsibilities, since June 2014 every employee with 26 weeks service has the right to request flexible working conditions. So if it’s not an area you’ve familiarised yourself with yet, it should be.

Advances in technology, the demands of a shifting, more transient workforce, and the recession that started in 2008 have all bought flexibility very much to the fore for employers across Britain. Many organisations have taken the opportunity to reduce overheads by engaging a more agile workforce, and employees looking for a ‘portfolio’ career or a more varied lifestyle have fuelled the demand.

Our expert guidance

As experts in the flexible working market we’ll be taking you through the different types of flexible options, what the legal requirements are, and spelling out exactly what the benefits are for both employer and employee.

You could use the information we’ll share to put together the business case for developing a flexible working policy, or to help gain support for diversifying your recruitment strategy.

We’ll also arm you with the knowledge you need to handle a request for flexible working conditions from an existing employee because we’ll set out what rights employees have and your obligations as an employer.

This series of posts will bring together all our expertise – and so that you have all this useful detail collected together in one place, at the end of the series we’ll be making it available as a handy downloadable ebook.

So lets start with a quick definition: Flexible working simply refers to any working schedule that is outside the normal pattern. Meaning that working hours, instead of being repetitive and fixed, can be open to change and variation. It can mean the employee has more choice about when and also where they are required to work.

So what are the options?

There are a few key types of flexible working options:

  • Job sharing. Two people share one job, splitting the hours between them. If your organisation requires a job function to be covered full-time but you have an employee who would like to work part-time, finding a suitable job share partner can avoid losing, or help attract, a skilled and experienced person.
  • Working from home. Technology has enable 59% of firms to have employees who work remotely.[ii] This may in involve some or all of the work being done from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
  • Part-time. Working less than full-time hours. Does the role really need to be full-time? Bringing in a more experienced person part-time can be better value for money than filling the post full-time but with a less experienced individual.
  • Compressed hours. Working full-time hours but over fewer days, for instance working a nine day fortnight.
  • The employee chooses when to start and end work, within agreed limits, but works certain ‘core hours’ for instance 10am to 4pm every day.
  • Annualised hours (see our case study below). The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly according to their lifestyle or when there is extra demand at work.
  • Staggered hours. The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers. So they may start later and finish later than others to be able to meet family obligations.
  • Phased retirement. Older workers can now choose when they want to retire and slowly can reduce their hours and work part-time in the lead-up to full retirement.

Case study

Helen Mullinger is head of compliance at community health provider, Bromley Healthcare. She works both part-time and with annualised hours. With school age children at home Helen is able to be there for them when they need her by working less hours during school holidays than in term-time. Her 30 hour working week reduces to 24 hours a week for 13 weeks of the year. This allows Helen the flexibility she needs, reducing the need for expensive holiday care, and gives the organisation the benefit of an experienced individual who otherwise may have found it hard to fit the role around her family life.

Next week – Employers guide to flexible working. Part 2: What are the legal requirements?

[i] Navigating choppy water, CBI 2011

[ii] A flexible future for Britain, Timewise 2014

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