According to YouGov, only 6% of people in the UK now work a 9-5 shift pattern. Whilst attitudes and popularity towards flexible working are calling for a demand of flexible shift patterns, other societal changes may also be contributing to the increased popularity of flexible working. For example, technological advancements – we no longer have to wait until 9am to call or visit a fellow business in order to engage their services. Internet, email and mobile phone access allows us to conduct business anywhere and at any time. It could also be down to the popularity of job-shares or part-time working especially among those with children. Not to mention the ‘gig’ economy may also have a role to play in the decrease of this once typical working pattern.
Whatever the reason, employers must respond to the changes in the increased demand of flexible working. Below are some of the considerations that employers will need to be aware of:
Flexible working requests – Since 2014, legislation now permits any employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service to submit a statutory flexible working request. The request must be in writing and only one application may be made per year. An employer must consider this request seriously and any changes to the employee’s terms and conditions will be permanent change to their contract unless a trial period or temporary change is agreed. If an employer refuses a request it must be for a legitimate business reason. For example, the burden of additional costs, an inability to recruit additional staff or if there is insufficient work for the employees proposed plan of working. If an employer refuses a flexible working request they must give the employee a chance to appeal.
Contracts of Employment – Flexible working brings about challenges in terms of drafting contracts of employment. Previously, a standard template for all employees of a particular level may have been used. However, now that employee’s shift patterns are varied throughout an organisation, contracts of employment will need to reflect the differences in working hours. One example of an issue with this is annual leave. Annual leave for part-time workers will need to be pro-rata. This may become more complicated with workers that work varying hours per week in terms of annual leave entitlement calculations. Another consideration relates to the Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment of Part-Time Workers Regulations 2000. Employers should be cautious not to provide less favourable treatment to those that have opted to work flexibly.
A further example of the potential consequences of flexible working relates to the Working Time Regulations 1998. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees either opt out of the Working Time Regulations or that they are not exceeding the legal limit for 48 hours per week. Where employees are working for multiple employers, this may be tricky to continuously review.
Although there are lots of considerations to bear in mind in terms of flexible working, there is no doubt that there is a reason why this type of working has increased in popularity in recent years. Recent research has shown there is a positive correlation between flexible working and productivity. Other benefits have been highlighted such as, increased employee engagement, improved work-life balance, increased motivation and better performance. Therefore, flexible working not only benefits employees but organisations also.
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