As the nation began returning to work after lockdown, there have been calls for employers to make flexible working a standard option for employees. Paul Burton, Head of Employment at Frettens, discusses the implications of flexible working for employees and employers.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working describes non-traditional working patterns that suit an employee's needs, for example; hours which accommodate childcare responsibilities.
All employees have the right to request flexible working via a formal application. To be classed as an 'employee', you must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
The minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, has asked employers to make flexible working a standard option for employees.
What are the advantages of flexible working for employees?
Liz Truss believes this step would boost both productivity and morale and improve employment prospects for women - who are twice as likely to work flexibly while they juggle childcare responsibilities - as well as those who don’t live close to big cities.
The Government Equalities Office has published a report, ‘Encouraging employers to advertise jobs as flexible’, by the Behavioural Insights Team and the jobs website Indeed. The report said that job applications increase by 30 per cent when flexible working is offered.
How to implement flexible working
Some employers are already trying to harness some of the positive effects that the pandemic has had on work patterns. PWC is one of the businesses embracing this. They announced in March that employees can work from home a couple of days a week and start as early or late as they like, giving staff much more control over their work.
They have said that staff can condense their hours and knock off early on Fridays this summer, as a nod to the testing times everyone has had to overcome. Chairman Kevin Ellis has said he hopes that the changes make flexible working the norm rather than the exception. He wants staff to feel trusted and empowered.
How does flexible working affect the employer?
We've looked at what flexible working is and why it can work for employees; but do flexible working practices align with employers goals?
What are the advantages of flexible working for employers?
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Airtasker, employees are more productive working remotely than in-office workers; working on average 1.4 days more per month.
Furthermore, in-office workers were being distracted in the workplace for an average of 37 minutes per day; 10 minutes more than remote workers. Allowing for flexible working can attract more job-seekers and can also improve retention of current employees.
What are the disadvantages of flexible working for employers?
Flexible working might not work for every business. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has another intake of 3000 new recruits this summer who need hands on training and mentoring to learn their trade. He said that working from home is an ‘aberration’ which he wants to correct as soon as possible, with young employees needing direct contact and mentorship that can only be achieved in the office.
Is flexible working here to stay?
Every business is different. But it’s worth heeding Mr Ellis’s belief that conscious planning is needed to ensure that silver linings of Covid are not lost when the economy finally opens up.
Now is the time to analyse what has worked over the last year for your business and what hasn’t. We are at a crossroads: the same path won’t suit every business, but everyone should make an active choice about the direction they want to go.
An employment solicitor's view
Paul Burton, Head of Employment said: “So many more people are working flexibly now since the pandemic started, involving changing locations, for example working from home, or different hours. This includes us at Frettens!
I do not believe it will go back completely as it was before the pandemic and therefore employers need to ensure their flexible working policies and practices are up to date with the law and also consistent and fair. We can assist you with the drafting of such policies and advice on good practice.”
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