, , , ,

Flexible working – now everyone can ask for it

Want to reduce your working hours, change your working pattern or work from home? All employees now have the right to ask for these changes, as long as you’ve been employed for 26 weeks (six months). Previously it was limited to parents and people with caring responsibilities for an adult.

The right to make the request has extended to all employees. The key thing to remember is that it’s only a right to make a request – nothing has changed in the way companies consider the requests and make decisions to agree or disagree with them.

Your company may already have a flexible working policy, although it might need updating now the law’s changed. If it doesn’t – or if you don’t want to read a long policy – here are the key points:

  • Employees have to make the request in writing.
  • The request has to state what the change will be and a start date for it, as well as what the employees think will be the impact for the company (good or bad).
  • If there will a drawback for the company, they have to suggest how to overcome this. For example someone asking to work part-time should say how the work can be covered if they reduce their hours – split between others, hiring another part-timer, setting up a job-share or any other ideas.
  • A manager has to consider the request: meet with the employ to discuss it and perhaps talk to anyone who might be affected and consider their views (if there’s an impact on other employees).
  • The manager makes a decision.
  • If he or she turns down the request, the employee has the right to appeal against the decision and a different manager hears the appeal.

For managers, there are key grounds to turn down a request:

  • A burden on the business: additional costs.
  • Cannot pass the work among other employees.
  • Cannot recruit to cover the work needed – especially relevant if it’s hard to find candidates for the post involved.
  • It will have an adverse impact on the company’s products or services.
  • It will have an adverse impact on the company’s customers.
  • It will have an adverse impact on performance, eg other employees in the team involved.
  • It will have an adverse impact on the company’s plans to make changes, such as a restructuring.

There are many reasons to let people work more flexibly and tons of research to support this, especially because the issues usually involve people’s lives and sometimes health. Many people are just as effective in 4 days as a full-time person and work regularly off-site without problems, as long as they’re great communicators when they’re not face-to-face with their colleagues and manage their time properly.

So, employees should be pleased but not overconfident about making requests. Managers should think the requests through rather than making decisions too quickly.

After all, turning requests down can also badly affect companies sometimes and not least with staff retention. If employees makes it clear they need to work part-time and they can’t, do you think they’ll stay or find a part-time job somewhere else? Is it better to keep a talented and experienced person on a part-time basis or replace him or her with a full-timer who might be great, but also might not be as good?

By Brian