More and more, employers are offering their staff non-traditional working arrangements, be it the option of time off in lieu, irregular working patterns or any other agreement that falls outside of the typical ‘9 to 5’ pattern.
Flexible working arrangements are becoming more popular amongst employees as the demand for a better work-life balance increases, but how much do you actually know about flexible working and whit it means for staff and their employers?
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working, by its very definition, is the term used to describe any working pattern that differs from the one you currently work.
These can include:
- Changing from full-time to part-time work.
- Changing the part-time hours that you work, for example, from weekends to weekdays.
- Changing working hours to fit in with, for example, school hours, college hours or care arrangements.
- Compressed hours, that is, working your usual hours in fewer days.
- Flexitime, which allows you to fit your working hours around agreed core times.
- Homeworking for part or all of the time.
- Job sharing.
- Self-rostering. This is most often found in hospitals and care services. You put forward the times you would like to work. Once staff levels and skills are worked out, the shift pattern is drawn up matching your preferences as closely as possible.
- Shift working.
- Staggered hours, these allow you to start and finish your days at different times. This is often useful in the retail sector where it is important to have more staff over the lunchtime period but fewer at the start and end of the day.
- Time off in lieu.
- Annualised hours, this means that working time is organised around the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than over a week. Annualised hours work best when there is a rise and fall in workload during the year.
- Term-time work, so you don’t work during the school holidays.
How do you go about Asking for Flexible Working?
There are types of flexible working requests – statutory requests and non-statutory requests.
A statutory request for flexible working is a request made under the law. There is a process set out which must be followed by you and your employer when negotiating your flexible working request.
The statutory process requires:
- You make your request in writing.
- Only one request be made in a 12-month period.
- Your employer to consider the request seriously; and,
- The process to be completed (including dealing with any appeal) within 3 months.
You must meet certain criteria to be eligible to submit a statutory request for flexible working (see below).
If you are not entitled to submit a statutory request, you can make a non-statutory one instead. This differs from a statutory request as it is not made under the law on flexible working and therefore has no set procedure.
Your employer may also have their own scheme or policy in place which details its own set of rules (this is usually more generous than those of statutory guidelines).
Who is Entitled to Request Flexible Working?
Not everyone has the statutory right to request flexible working. You need to meet the following criteria:
- Be an employee; and,
- Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks continuously at the date your application is made; and,
- Not be in one of the groups of employees who aren’t entitled to ask for flexible working.
However, if you don’t meet these criteria it doesn’t mean that you can’t still request flexible working with a non-statutory request or under your employer’s scheme if they have one.
Is there Anyone not Entitled to Request Flexible Working?
Just because you meet the criteria mentioned above, that doesn’t automatically give you the statutory right to ask for flexible working. If you fall under one or more of the following, you may not be eligible:
- Are a member of the armed forces.
- Are an agency worker. However, agency workers who are returning from parental leave do have the right to make a flexible working request.
- Have asked for flexible working within the previous twelve months, whether your request was agreed to or not.
- Are an employee shareholder, unless you have returned from parental leave in the last 14-Days.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages?
There are positives and negatives to having a flexible working arrangement which effect both employee and employer alike.
- Flexible working allows for a much healthier work-life balance. Employees are able to better meet family responsibilities as well as personal needs that might otherwise suffer when working a traditional ‘9 to 5’ week.
- Time spent commuting is reduced, saving on expenses such as petrol and parking.
- Some people find their work environment too loud, disruptive or even too quiet and dull, leading to a decreased level of productivity and accuracy in the work they produce. Flexible working gives employees more control over the environment they find most advantageous for their work, allowing for greater productivity.
- Some people are early birds, others are night owls. Some find that working for short bursts over a longer period helps them to get the most from their output. Flexible working supports the opportunity for employees to work during the hours that best fit their energy cycles.
- Employers who advocate schemes like flexible working demonstrate to their staff that they really care about their happiness which boosts employee morale.
- When staff feel valued, there’s also a significant decrease in employee turnover.
- Staff having the opportunity to work flexibly helps them to attend other commitments, appointments or complete home maintenance which reduces tardiness and absenteeism.
- Companies that offer their staff the means to maintain a healthy balance between work and home life stand out as family-friendly places to work, boosting the overall company image and making it a desirable place for potential candidates to work.
- While flexible working might suit some businesses down to the ground, there will always be an exception in office-based companies who rely on communication to get work done effectively, and this is made difficult if not all team members are in the office.
- Working remotely can blur the lines dividing home and work, leading to employees being unable to switch off when they are meant to be on ‘downtime’ or even not being able to focus on their work as a result of distractions such as partners, kids or even the TV.
- Working from home can mislead family and friends to believe that you are available when you are meant to be focused.
- When implementing a flexible working arrangement, employers need to place a certain level of trust in their staff to get the work done; however, some employees may not work as efficiently without supervision.
- Depending on the nature of your business, compressed work hours may lead to customer service suffering.
- If there are certain staff members who simply couldn’t perform their jobs remotely, feelings of unfairness might arise, leading to a loss in productivity and morale.