Flexible Working: Is Your Company Ready?

Craig Hynd |


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Every employer in the UK needs to know about flexible working. Not only is it a legal right for employees to request flexible working, it is fast becoming an essential and expected part of a job package.

Yet despite the law requiring it, and the fact that the tide is clearly shifting, 47% of full-time employees do not have flexible working encouraged at their workplace, and a staggering 42% are not offered flexible working at all.

In this article, we’ll look at the current legal status of flexible working, why many businesses are resistant to it, and what practical steps they can take to process flexible working requests in a compliant way.

What does the law say?

UK law gives employees the right to formally request flexible working arrangements after they have been employed with the same company for 26 weeks, and is called ‘making a statutory application’. This legal right is given to both part-time and full-time employees.

The types of flexible working that can be requested are:

  • Job sharing
  • Working from home
  • Part time
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexitime
  • Annualised hours
  • Staggered hours
  • Phased retirement

Why are businesses still resistant to flexible working?

The fundamental reason for companies to reject or actively discourage flexible working requests is due to a lack of trust and a dictatorial, restrictive work culture. We’ve already discussed the importance of culture, and how giving employees autonomy can form part of a compelling package of intangible benefits that can increase productivity and motivation.

Holding the point of view that flexible working is detrimental to a business is simply denying what the evidence is telling us. Study after study finds that flexible working boosts employee morale, reduces absenteeism, and enhances a company’s image as being a great place to work. These benefits, combined with the current legal framework that facilitates flexible working requests, as well as the future outlook for flexible working, means that it is something which businesses can no longer ignore, obfuscate, or otherwise brush under the carpet.

How can businesses change their mindset?

Communication is key. Business leaders and HR professionals need to communicate employees’ rights effectively, ensuring that they know what the law is and that they have the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Rather than resisting change, businesses need to face facts and embrace the benefits that flexible working practices can bring. This feeds into a larger concept of an open, inclusive, forward-thinking work culture that places the wellbeing of employees as the highest priority.

How can businesses process flexible working requests in a legal and compliant manner?

The way in which flexible working requests are submitted and processed is often overlooked, and yet it is arguably the most critical part of the entire flexible working request procedure.

The increase in admin to process these requests by traditional methods, whether through email or paper forms, for example, is immense. Facilitating requests via email can also put you at risk of non-compliance, as emails can easily be lost in a deluge of day-to-day messages – and the same goes for paper-based systems. You could also be faced with multiple conflicting requests at the same time, with no intuitive way to sift through them.

This is no way to run an efficient and modern business.

As it is now a legal right for employees to request flexible working arrangements, and with the possibility that this right could be further enhanced in the near future, it is essential that businesses adopt a compliance-led, secure, digital system that ensures they meet their legal obligations, and to avoid potential costly employment litigation proceedings.

But the key question is this: what features does your system need to have?

Your HR software solution should have fully-compliant HR case management functionality, which allows you to create, monitor, and proactively manage the various processes that follow an employee making a flexible working request.

Your solution should also give you the power to decide whether your employees are able to raise a request themselves via a self-service dashboard, or whether to restrict the creation of a case to line managers or HR professionals only.

The process management design should follow these clear steps:

  • Request/case recorded
  • Eligibility auto-checked
  • Meeting(s) scheduled to discuss, if required
  • Record outcomes from meeting(s)
  • Decision made – approve/reject/trial period
  • Trial period review, if appropriate
  • Appeal, if rejected

Once a case has been created, the system should check that the employees’ length of service is greater than 26 weeks, check to ensure that no previous requests have been made within the last 12-month period, and should also provide notification alerts and reminders to managers to ensure that the case is heard correctly and concluded within a three-month period, unless agreed otherwise with the employee concerned.

Your chosen solution should also prompt the users for all the necessary and required information, and ask for case notes to include answers to key questions that need to be recorded.

These include:

  • A suggested effective date for the change
  • A description of the changes being suggested to their current working pattern
  • A reason for the request being made
  • A description of the impact the change would have on the business

The line manager or HR user should be able to easily manage the entire process, end-to-end, by adding multiple comments as required following any and all discussions with the employee, and the employer. They will ultimately record their final decision, which provides an audit trail including the records of ‘who said what to whom, and when’.

Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:

  • Extra costs that will damage the business
  • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff
  • People cannot be recruited to do the work
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce

Once the final decision has been made, your system should present a confirmation letter to the manager as the final stage in the process, which would be sent to the employee. A copy of the letter, which is time and date stamped, should be automatically stored against their employee record.

In addition, your HR software should also have the ability for an employee to appeal any decision, which they can do on their own via their self-service portal.

Youmanage is the only HR software solution that can do any of this. Every automated step you have just read cannot be done in any other system.

So why would you choose anything else?

Do what others can’t. Choose Youmanage.

Try Youmanage for free today, or book a personalised one-to-one demo to experience the premier HR software solution.

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