Currently, parents of school age children aged 16 or under or disabled children under the age of 18 and certain carers have the right to request flexible working as long as they have 26 weeks’ continued employment and have not made a similar request in the past 12-months.
Whilst your employer has to consider requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner, they also have the right to refuse. The amendment to the legislation means employees can request a wide range of flexibility such as job share, change to working hours or times and location.
The case for flexible working is a strong one. When my second daughter was born 14 years ago, my employer – a predominantly London-based premium automotive retailer which had dealerships such as Land Rover, Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari, closed their office in Burnham (where I worked and an easy commute from my home) and moved their marketing department to offices above their Volvo dealership in Colindale, north London (where I didn’t want to work and was a much longer drive).
I had already renegotiated my hours to 32 a week following the birth of my eldest daughter some two-and-a-half years earlier and I was fortunate enough for my boss to suggest that I work from home. I transformed a large cupboard into a close-away office, ran in a second phone line and set up shop.
Was my employer way ahead of his time? Were they afraid that as I was about to go on maternity leave, I could have wagered a case against them if they had opted to make me redundant? Did they value my contribution to the group and didn’t want to lose me? Quite possibly, all of the above.
However, the real question is how that impacted on me as an employee and on their business?
I couldn’t work hard enough for them. I still had the child-minding costs, the constant juggling and the times when there was no way in the world the M25 was going to enable me to pick up on time but the children were local (apart from when I was out on the road which I was quite often) and the 32 hours meant I finished at a reasonable enough hour to spend some ‘quality’ time before tea and bed.
Flexible working for me is a no-brainer. Employers reap the rewards of a dedicated, hard-working employee – I have no doubt I achieved more in my 32 hours than many full-timers and when it was needed, I put the extra hours in, often in the evening when the kids were in bed. The employee benefits from a flexible working arrangement which fits around the children or relatives in need of care. Employees are also more likely to be loyal (my employer received 10 years’ labour from me). It’s a classic upward spiral.
Undoubtedly, the key is trust. It will be quite obvious if your flexible working employee isn’t putting in the hours if working from home or isn’t as productive as they should be in the workplace despite their reduced hours or if one half of a job share works harder than another.
I would urge all employers grant employees who request it, flexible working, I think it will pay dividends, literally!