The time has come to stop thinking about flexible working and start doing
it. Here are 20 ways to get you on the
right track. By Maya Cronly-Dillon
Analyse your organisation
1 Find out the current age (eg 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 and so on) and gender
profile of your workforce, and decide how relevant flexible working is likely
to be to them. Remember, men are increasingly sharing childcare responsibilities,
so this may not necessarily just be a ‘female’ issue.
2 Have there been many requests for flexible working in the past? If they
have been agreed, find out how well they have worked.
3 If requests have been refused, dig out details of the request and/or a
record of the reasons for refusal. Did the employee remain in employment?
4 Work out your business case for flexible working. For example, is employee
retention an important issue for your business? Consider:
– How much your organisation invests in training per person
– Is their expertise difficult to replace?
– Assess the cost of advertising and/or recruitment fees to replace
– Work out if the loss of employees damage the continuity of key business
relationships (for example, with clients and/or suppliers)?
5 Think carefully about the likely impact of introducing flexible working on
staff morale. Will it motivate employees, or could it have the opposite effect
6 Decide if introducing flexible working will enhance your ability to
recruit by making you an employer of choice in your field.
7 Consider what human and/or technological resources you have to accommodate
flexible working requests – for example are you a big or small organisation? Do
you have IT systems allowing remote access and so on? This will dictate the
scope of the policy.
Determine your organisation’s stance
8 Using the information from your analysis, assess what value flexible
working practices are likely to have on your organisation.
9 Use this assessment to form the starting point for discussions with
management about the direction the organisation should take.
10 Determine the degree of awareness and/or receptiveness among senior
management to issues relating to flexible working. Until there is buy-in at
senior level, it may be difficult to be proactive about change.
11 Decide whether your organisation will take a proactive approach – or
whether to leave requests to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis. If the latter,
what support will there be for managers deciding on a case-by-case basis?
12 Consider whether to minimise any backlash from those not eligible under
the new regulations by widening access to flexible working to employees outside
their scope – for example those with children over the age of six or those
caring for elderly relatives.
Preparing to deal with requests
13 Identify who in your organisation will deal with requests to work
flexibly. The same person who would hear a grievance is probably best placed to
consider an employee’s request, with an appeal being heard by another,
preferably senior, person.
14 Make sure your policy provides managers and employees with information
about statutory time limits and procedures to follow and all the legal issues
to take into account in dealing with a request.
15 Most employers equate flexible working with part-time working. But
remember there are other work patterns which can provide flexible arrangements
– Compressed hours, for example working the same number of hours over four
days a week rather than five
– Staggered hours
– Home or teleworking – this need not be on a full-time basis. It may be
possible for someone to divide their time between the office and home or
– Job sharing
– Annualised hours
16 Set out some examples of what flexible working might mean and/or key
operational requirements which need to be considered in relation to a request.
This will assist employees to structure their suggestions and managers to focus
discussions on relevant matters.
17 Work out what other training and/or back-up managers should be given.
18 Consider other ways in which your organisation can be seen to support its
employees if flexible working is unlikely to work – for example having a pool of
information on local childcare or on transport options to local schools, or by
providing interest-free loans to assist with, or sponsoring, outside childcare.
Dealing with requests
19 Keep an open mind at all times, and get into the habit of questioning managers’
assumptions about whether a job can be done in a flexible way.
20 In difficult cases, consider whether both manager and employee can
compromise. Could they, for example, agree a finite trial arrangement subject
to periodic reviews?
Maya Cronly-Dillon is a solicitor at Lovells
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