Employees will be able to request flexible hours in drive to make workplaces family friendly
From next week employees will be able to request changes to working hours. Rob Griffin weighs up the options
Friday 27 June 2014
This is an important week for anyone craving greater freedom in their working lives. From Monday all employees will be able to request flexible hours thanks to a government drive to make workplaces more family friendly.
The move will give individuals the statutory right to ask their bosses to change their contractual terms and conditions of employment in favour of a more flexible approach – provided they have clocked up at least 26 weeks' continuous service.
Some may want to modify their day to fit around the school run or even share the job with someone else. Others, meanwhile, could be pushing to work from home or compress their weekly hours into four days in order to take every Friday off.
Previously this "right to request" only applied to the parents of children under 17 (18 in the case of parents of disabled children) or to those caring for an adult, but it is hoped that extending the regulations will encourage firms to explore the options.
Employers who introduce flexible working achieve tangible improvements to their recruitment, staff retention and overall employee relations, according to Jennie Willott, the minister for employment relations in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
"For employees the benefits of flexible working are obvious," she says. "A better chance to strike a balance between work and other commitments, a better work-life balance, and a greater sense of being in control of your working life."
The extension of the legislation is significant but it's important to recognise that it's only a right to request flexible working and not an automatic entitlement, points out employment lawyer Philip Landau of Landau Law (www.landaulaw.co.uk).
"Employers are required to consider requests objectively and in a reasonable manner," he explains. "They must notify the employee of their decision within three months of the request being made, unless an extension is agreed."
Employees must make their request in writing, setting out the date of the application, the change to working conditions they are seeking, and when they want it to take effect.
"They must set out what effect they think the requested change would have on the employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with," he adds, pointing out it's a statutory request and should give details of previous applications made. The employer will then be expected to hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the request.
"An employer must provide clear business reasons for any rejection."
Reasons can include the burden of extra costs, the detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand, an inability to re-organise work among existing staff, negative impact on quality and an insufficient amount of work during periods the employee proposes to work.
It is estimated that around 7.4 million people aged 16-plus – out of a workforce of more than 30 million – currently enjoy flexible working arrangements, according to analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey compiled by the Office for National Statistics.
A survey by Jobsite, the online career portal, has found that two thirds of the workforce would request flexible working if they were given the opportunity. The study found spending more time with children was the most popular reason cited.
It also revealed that 53 per cent of British businesses are still unaware of the changes, while of those that are aware, 25 per cent admit they haven't thought about the impact it could have.
It is hoped the move will encourage more businesses to follow the lead of innovative firms such as Create.net, a Brighton-based website design company, that offers all its staff flexible hours and even allows some to work from home. It requires employees to be in for the core hours, but allows them to decide how to make up the rest of their contracted time.
Rebecca Kimber, Create's chief executive officer, admits having flexible working arrangements in place relies on trust but says the policy has been a success: "It allows people to work when they are most productive as not everyone is a morning person and some work best in the early evening," she explains. "Also, an employee might be on a project that would benefit from longer hours one day and shorter hours the next."
The policy also reflects workers' lives. "We have quite a young workforce, so providing the ability to start slightly later avoids someone coming into work really early if they have had a late night and just sitting at a desk, not being ready to work," she adds.
Flexi-time was one of the key attractions for Benjamin Parry, 34, when he applied for a job at Create; it enabled him to solve childcare issues with his wife without the stress and potential cost of making alternative arrangements.
"Having a three-year-old who attends nursery up to three times a week means that there is additional travel time added to my day," he says. "The flexible arrangement enables me to share the responsibilities with my wife."
Flexible working won't be perfect for everyone, points out Tracey West, founder of International Downshifting Week, an awareness campaign designed to help people slow their pace of life. "If you enjoy the security that fixed employment offers, flexible working might not suit you, or your body clock," she says. "But if you're the type who can polish an important project in the wee hours, grab it with both hands."
So what constitutes flexible working? The term can be defined as any arrangement that is better suited to an individual's needs, whether they need to do the school run, want to avoid commuting every day, or be in the office at different times of the week.There is no exhaustive list but here are some of the most popular options:
Part-time working: Part-time hours are agreed to fit around someone's circumstances, such as needing to start work later each day.
Flexi-time: There will generally be core times during which an employee will have to work, but outside of these they will have flexibility to choose when they work the other hours.
Job-sharing: A popular arrangement. Typically, two employees will share the work usually completed by one.
Working from home: Another popular option. The rising use of the internet has meant it's easier for people to work away from the office – and avoid the boring commute.
Term-time working: Ideal for parents. An employee will be able to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays in order to cope with childcare demands.
Staggered hours: This enables workers at the same place to have different start and finish times. This is regularly used as a way to cover longer opening hours.
Annual hours: The number of hours an employee works over a year are calculated and then split into set and reserve shifts, worked as required.
Compressed working hours: The agreed total hours worked in a week are compressed into fewer days. This means longer shifts, but fewer office days in the office.
Shift-working: Necessary for the emergency services, for example, where workers will be needed round the clock.
Case study: 'I've changed hours to what works'
Rebecca Shula, 32, loves her flexible life. She is contracted to complete 29.5 hours over four days as a health and safety coordinator for EDF Energy in Hove – but doesn't work set hours each day.
"Generally I do two long days and two short days, but every day can be different depending on what I need," she says. "My husband also works at EDF and has a slightly different flexible arrangement."
Not wishing to use child-minders was an incentive to applying for EDF's work-life programme, which champions flexible working arrangements.
"My two children go to school and preschool, and because of the arrangements we have, either my husband or I are always able to do the school run, both at the start and end of the day," she explains. "That's really important to us."
In fact, she can't think of any negatives with the arrangement. "I've been really lucky that when I've come back from maternity leave I've been able to adapt and change the hours to what works for me and the nursery," she adds. "My advice to someone thinking of applying for flexible working would be to think carefully about what would truly work for them."
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
Number of parents moving to their desired school catchment area is increasing, according to Santander research
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Renting from a rogue landlord? It’s time to know your rights
- 1 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 4 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 5 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...
Day In a Page
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.