Times are changing. The traditional 9am to 5pm is now becoming outdated, not just for parents or carers but for EVERYONE. Just 6% of people in the UK now work such hours. Yet people are still requesting flexible working hours and being denied this right. Many people are not even aware this right exists. A balance must be struck between employer and employee and there is a plethora of research which shows working flexibly is better for one’s mental health and productivity. Employers would benefit from offering flexible working hours and would attract a higher number of applicants, said Peter Cheese, chief executive of HR industry body of the CIPD.
So, how do I request flexible working? Do you work in the UK? If the answer is yes, then you have a statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment. You should make your request in writing, stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application.
Your employer should consider and decide upon your request or appeal within three months of receipt of the request. Should your employer deny your request for flexible working time they should provide a sound business reason for their rejection. As an employee you can only make one request in any 12 month period.
Now, don’t get me wrong I love my job. But like the majority of people I work to live. For this, I need to strike an acceptable work-life balance which may differ from other colleagues. For instance, I am not a morning person, luckily for me, my firm adopts a flexible approach to the working day. Therefore I tend to start most working days at 10am and finish at 6pm. Other colleagues opt for beginning at 8am and finishing by 4pm.
ACAS (the conciliation service between employer and employee) have advised a poor balance between an employee’s work commitments and their other responsibilities can lead to stress, high absence and low productivity. Furthermore employees who have a better work-life balance often have a greater sense of responsibility, ownership and control of their working life. If an employer helps an employee to balance their work and home life this can be rewarded by increased loyalty and commitment. They may also feel more able to focus on their work and develop their career.
Take Paycircle, 15 staff, no company handbook, holiday entitlement is entirely self-controlled, flexible working hours and attendance. They work based on trust and maturity. “Colleagues are trusted to get the work done and there is respect, so you do not let down the other 14 people,” stated the co-found Catherine Pinkney, an evangelist for non-traditional working. It seems to be working as they have only lost one employee in 8 years. However, their flexibility extends into the weekend and sometimes their holidays. This may breed an inability to switch off.
The Chartered Management Institute published the Quality of Working Life Report in January. This report recommends that employees should have “the freedom, trust and autonomy to make their own decisions about how they work…hold people accountable for the outcomes of their work, but do not be prescriptive about how they work.” However, their own research suggests managers work an hour’s overtime everyday – by accessing work via a smartphone thus cancelling out the typical amount of annual leave. Dr Maire Kerrin, director of the Work Psychology Group advises anyone embarking on flexible working requires self-discipline. If an individual works a 4 day week they can often find work seeping into their lives in the evenings or at the weekend. Dr Kerrin feels unlimited flexibility would be easier at big firms rather than small organisations.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Group adopted an unlimited holiday allowance for staff without the need for approval policy for headquarters staff in 2014. This entitles an employee to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off…the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business- or, for that matter, their careers.
Companies are beginning to modernise their approach in the workplace to take into account employee’s personal lives. But employees need to ready themselves for the self-discipline to undertake flexible working hours and also ensure they do not overwork themselves to ensure the flexible approach is still beneficial to them. To conclude, if you are looking for a more flexible work timetable, all you have to do is submit a written request.
Blog by Neha Sood, Solicitor