Flexible working is a working arrangement that gives some amount of flexibility on where, when and how long an employee may work. Flexible working has many benefits, such as improving health and wellbeing among a workforce as well as enhancing motivation and reducing absence levels.
Who can Request Flexible Working and how do they do it?
Requesting flexible working is a statutory right for any employee who has worked continuously for 26 weeks. An employee may request flexible working due to:
- Care commitments
- Other interests or duties outside of work
- Needing to be available for religious observances
- Reduce their stress levels
Employees should submit their request for flexible working in writing. An employee is entitled to make one request a year. As an employer, you have 3 months to make a decision, although this period can be extended if the employee agrees. If an employee misses 2 meetings to discuss their application or appeal for flexible working, without a valid reason, then as an employer, you can treat the application as withdrawn.
If you refuse an application for flexible working, you must state the business reasons as to why. Some valid reasons for rejection may be:
- A planned change to your workforce
- It will accrue extra costs which will be detrimental to the business
- The work cannot be redistributed amongst other employees
Policies on Flexible Working
If you feel that flexible working is something your workforce could benefit from, it is best to have a policy in place to ensure consistency in the handling of requests. The policy itself should be based on the needs of your organisation and should include:
- A statement that positively encourages employees to consider flexible working and to emphasise that they will not be treated less favourably for requesting flexible working
- Which options of flexible working are available to them and how they should put in a request
- Details of where they can get further information.
Different types of Flexible Working
Flexi-time can operate in different ways. There may be an accrual system, where employees build up hours which can then be used for additional periods of time off or for earlier/later starts and finishes, subject to approval from a line manager. Another way it can operate is by employees having to work during core times, and varying their start and finish times.
This is the most common type of flexible working. Employees are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours.
Employees may work hours over their contracted hours, either voluntarily or compulsory. There is no legal right for employees to be paid more for this. However, some companies may offer this to make overtime seem more attractive.
Where a full-time role is split between two or more people, all pay and benefits are split between the hours worked.
- Compressed hours
This is when employees work their normal contracted hours in longer shifts over fewer days. Through working these longer days, an employee can accrue hours to use as a half day or as leave.
- Annualised hours
An employee has a fixed number of hours they must work over the course of a year, but the working pattern is flexible. While they may have set shifts, they do each week; there will also be unallocated shifts for them to pick up.
- Term-time working
Employees take time off during the school holidays, which is usually unpaid. This may be due to childcare arrangements, or university students who have finished for the summer.
- Temporary working/ Fixed-term contracts
Employees are employed for a limited period, which ends at the expiry of the contract. The contract may be renewed if necessary for business needs and both parties agree.
This generally concerns readily trained staff who are only required for a short period for a specific job.
If someone is on a zero hours contract, as an employer, you are not obliged to provide any set minimum hours, only as and when the business requires. Zero hours contracts may not be suitable for everyone, due to their unpredictable nature.
- Home working/ Mobile working
An employee either works from home or another location that is not the normal place of work. There may be an arrangement that an employee does this a set amount of days a week or full time.