Tips for Managing Flexible Working in a Small Business
It is likely that as a smaller organisation you have experienced some form of flexible working during the pandemic – but how does it benefit employers? For employees, it can help them decide whether to accept a job offer and can give them the continued work life balance that they may have experienced over the last few months. Many employees have reflected upon their working life during the pandemic so employers may need to carefully consider how to retain their workforce.
You may not have realised before the pandemic that having employees working from home and working different hours can work for your business. It is important to accept that a significant change has taken place in the way we work during the last year and employee expectations may have changed.
Importance of consistency
Managing flexible working needs consistency to ensure fairness and it is helpful to have a policy to ensure all requests are treated in the same way. Any employee with more than 26 weeks service can request flexible working from their employer.
When can flexible working be refused of deferred?
You can turn down requests or defer them due to the burden of additional costs, the inability to organise the work amongst existing employees or an inability to recruit new staff. You can also take into account the potential effects on performance, quality, an inability to meet customer requirements, insufficient work for the period the employee wishes to work or because of a planned structural change to your business.
Procedure for flexible working requests
Again, it can be helpful to have a flexible working policy in place so that the procedure for requesting it is clear.
Your employee may ask to reduce their hours, change their start and finish time (or to make them flexible), work their hours on fewer days (compressed working), work term-time only, work from home or elsewhere, work a mixture of at home and at the workplace (hybrid working) or share the job with someone else.
If you receive a flexible working request, your employee should have worked for you for at least 26 weeks or should not have made a request within the last t12 months under current legislation but, of course, you are free to consider requests from newer employees if you wish.
Their request should be in writing, should outline what the changes are they are requesting and when they’d like the changes to start. The employee should detail the effect they think the changes would have on your business.
The employee can bring a colleague with them to any meetings about or appeals against a decision on flexible working. It is always advisable to discuss the request fully with the employee and to keep communication lines open.
You should make a decision within three months.
Benefits to the employer
As well as improving employee morale, job satisfaction and efficiency, flexible working can actually improve productivity. Employee stress levels can be reduced.
Offering flexible working can also increase the pool of candidates you have for each vacancy and could help you win new talent.
In a hugely challenging time, decisions you make now as an employer about the ability of your workforce to work flexibly going forward could either win long term loyalty or permanently alienate employees. We are entering a moment of truth in the World of work.