The term flexible working covers flexibility in terms of time (e.g. part-time work, shift work) and location (e.g. homeworking) and includes the following:
Part-time working - Workers are contracted to work less than standard, basic, full-time hours.
Flexi-time - Workers have the freedom to work in any way they choose outside a set core of hours determined by the employer.
Staggered hours - Workers have different start, finish and break times, allowing a business to open longer hours.
Compressed working hours - Workers can cover their total number of hours in fewer working days.
Job sharing - One full-time job is split between two workers who agree the hours between them.
Shift swapping - Workers arrange shifts amongst themselves, provided all required shifts are covered.
Self rostering - Workers nominate the shifts they'd prefer, leaving you to compile shift patterns matching their individual preferences while covering all required shifts.
Time off in lieu (TOIL) - Workers take time off to compensate for extra hours worked.
Term-time working - A worker remains on a permanent contract but can take paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.
Annual hours - Workers' contracted hours are calculated over a year. Whilst the majority of shifts are allocated, the remaining hours are kept in reserve so that workers can be called in at short notice as required.
V-time working - Workers agree to reduce their hours for a fixed period with a guarantee of full-time work when this period ends.
Zero-hours contracts - Workers work only the hours they are needed.
Home working/teleworking - Workers spend all or part of their week working from home or somewhere else away from the employer's premises.
Sabbatical/career break - Workers are allowed to take an extended period of time off, either paid or unpaid.
Flexible arrangements should comply with the law on working time.
Introducing a flexible working policy can benefit everyone in your business - employers, employees and their families. Many employers believe that it makes good business sense and brings the following improvements:
The main gain for your employees from flexible working arrangements is the increased opportunity to fit other commitments and activities in with work, and make better use of their free time. This can be particularly helpful for people caring for children or other dependants, but others may find flexible working helpful too. They may feel more in control of their workloads, and manage a better balance between life and work. Employees will avoid the stress of commuting at peak times if their start and finish times are staggered or if they work from home, and many employers find that introducing flexible working arrangements reduces their sickness levels.
Flexible working hours could help your customers in many ways. You could find you are able to offer longer opening times, more experienced staff and a better overall service.
Any employee can request flexible working arrangements but employees with children under 17 (or under 6 in Northern Ireland) or disabled children under 18, and carers of adults, have a specific right to request flexible working, and this must be taken seriously.
This law is designed to help the employer and employee find a mutually-agreeable solution.
Address practical issues in a way that ensures you meet your legal obligations. For example, if someone deals with your HR issues, encourage employees to refer requests for flexible working to them as well as to the relevant manager.
Employees have a right of appeal, so always keep someone appropriate in reserve.
Bear in mind other relevant legal restrictions when considering an application for flexible working, e.g. avoiding discrimination. A claim under sex discrimination legislation is still possible and compensation is unlimited.
Given that an employee will generally have important reasons for requesting flexible working, it is worth bearing in mind that a refusal may lead them to search for more flexible employment elsewhere.