Firms must get formal on flexible practices

As the summer holiday season comes to an end, it is now one long haul at
work until the Christmas break.

This time of year makes staff reassess their working lives and consider
whether they have got the balance right between their jobs and their lives outside
work. How can they earn a decent living, rise up the career ladder and have
more time to spend with the family or doing leisure pursuits?

As autumn beckons, the Whitehall and Westminster machine is slowly getting
back into gear and the lobbyists are equally hard at work trying to influence
the employment policy agenda and flag up their specific interests.

The Industrial Society, which hasn’t stopped churning out its huge volume of
reports over the summer, has published a survey of more than 500 HR professionals
on the issue of flexible working (News, p1 & Comment, p21).

There is no doubt that both this and the whole work-life balance debate are
hot political topics – the party conference season will see some policy
announcements and the Work and Parents Task Force led by Professor Sir George
Bain is due to report back in November.

The Industrial Society research is encouraging in that it shows that many
employers are offering more flexibility at work – nine out of 10, in fact. But
this is on a very informal basis. It is startling that over two-thirds of HR
specialists questioned do not have written or formal policies on flexible
working in their organisations.

HR managers should grasp the nettle and try to formalise flexible working
arrangements that exist in their organisations. This will help retain staff, be
fair and transparent and allow for more innovative approaches rather than just
having a definition of flexible working as 8am to 4pm instead of 9am to 5pm.

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