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."
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
iJobs Money & Business
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...
£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...
Day In a Page
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
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.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
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, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
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.
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 four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
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.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
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.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
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.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
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
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof