New rules came into force on Monday 30 June 2014 meaning all employees with 26 weeks or more service will be allowed to request flexible working. Employers in turn must address requests in a "reasonable manner". Until now, you only had the right if you had children under 17 (or 18 if they have a disability) or if you cared for an adult dependant.
Should the thought of an influx of flexible working requests strike fear into the heart of business owners? Not necessarily - there are several really great reasons to consider requests with open arms and a firm eye on the bottom line. These include:
1. Increased job satisfaction = increased productivity
Statistics prove that a happy workforce is more productive. Employees that can accommodate family commitments or other outside activities feel less stress, as they are not so torn between conflicting demands.
British Telecom reported productivity gains of £10m a year following the introduction of flexible working and the RAC reported productivity increases of 8% for flexible hours.
2. Lower costs for the employer
The introduction of some form of flexitime system may actually decrease costs. For example: having a ‘bank’ of worked hours, can reduce overtime payments – overtime is worked to meet the demands of the job but may not be automatically paid until, for example, the end of each quarter, and it may be that the employee prefers to take the time off in lieu.
In addition there can be savings as a result of accommodation. BT claim that improving desk utilisation by replacing the conventional one-desk-per-employee arrangement with fewer ‘hot desks’ can save £16,000 per employee who works at home.
3. Reduced travelling time and costs
In some cases, adjustments to working hours can result in the employees incurring reduced costs – of travel, childcare, or domiciliary care and this is therefore an attractive benefit which costs the employer nothing but is very valuable to the employee.
Telecoms firm Astra found that employees can save 55 hours a year - more than two whole days - if they are equipped to work from home just one day a week.
With spiralling fuel costs and road congestion there is clearly a cost and time benefit for those who work at home some or all of the time, or who can travel outside the rush hour periods.
4. Improved retention and recruitment
It seems that for many the ability to work flexibly is an overwhelming attraction – proving even more of a pull than money. People who can fit demands of home life within their working lives are noticeably more committed to staying with an employer who facilitates this. Because the employer has attempted to meet the employee’s needs, greater loyalty is usually assured.
For example: BT offers its employees a range of working options and as a result has a 50% higher rate of mothers returning post pregnancy than the national average.
In addition, such schemes can attract a wider range of candidates who otherwise would be barred from applying because of their other commitments.
5. Reduced lateness and absenteeism
In some environments employees take time off sick when they are not actually ill - in order to look after children, deal with personal or family emergencies; catch up on domestic issues etc. If employees can take this time off legitimately, they may well do so instead of ‘pulling a sickie’. Two-thirds of the organisations who offered flexible working believed that this helped reduce absence, as do flexible annual leave and occasional home working.
If people can fit their working time around outside commitments (e.g. the school run, rush hour traffic) their ability to arrive ‘on-time’ may be enhanced. You will benefit from their presence rather than having to manage their absence/lateness.
In addition time which was previously spent attending appointments, taking long lunch hours etc is now taken in the employee’s own time and is no longer working time.
6. Retention of experience
Older employees with particular experience may be happy to work beyond retirement age but not on a full-time basis. Without the opportunity to work flexibly their years of talent and experience are just lost to the economy.