Balancing the commitments of home and work isn’t easy. However, there has never been a better time to explore how you, your family and your employer could benefit from a better work-life balance.
Employees work less than 30 hours per week and hours may be worked over any number of days. It allows cover for busy periods and is a popular option for women returning from maternity leave.
Employees choose the hours they work each day. There are usually set ‘core’ times, for example between 10am and 3pm and employees can build up hours so they can take time off. It can help with travelling to work, cut down on employee absence and can enable a company to extend the hours when a service can be provided.
Special leave can be given for extra maternity and paternity leave, adoption leave and family emergencies. It helps to recruit and retain key employees and increases loyalty.
Employees can work from home or in another office. It reduces overheads, improves retention of employees, encourages higher productivity and increases the pool of potential recruits.
Two or more people divide responsibility for one full time job. Improves information sharing and joint working and helps employees stay focused throughout the week. It can also help them remain committed to the job with no guilt about neglecting their home life.
Working Reduced hours or time off is agreed for school holidays. Helps recruit and retain employees with children at school.
Paid or unpaid time off work, with an agreement of a job on return. Helps to retain employees who are carers and increases the likelihood of women returning to work after maternity leave.
Flexible working arrangements allowing employees to cover for colleagues and take time off without using up holiday allowance. Reduces absenteeism and sick leave.
Working times are set to match busy periods and hours earned or owed may be stored in a “time bank”. Reduces absenteeism and sick leave. Increases flexibility to meet workload peaks and troughs and the use of individual choice increases motivation.
Care benefits, financial support, childcare vouchers
These may be a direct add on employee benefit or part of a flexible package of benefits which employees may select from, or trade salary for, on an annual basis. Options available include:· Support paid direct to the employee· Support paid direct to a nursery or childminder A clear signal of commitment by employers and employees feel more motivated as they have more choice and control.
On site nursery, out of school ‘club’ or holiday play scheme offering places to employees. Baby feeding/changing stations may also be provided. Simplifies the journey to childcare and work and can enable breast-feeding to continue after a mother has returned to work. This scheme is also a highly visible symbol of employer commitment, leading to better recruitment and retention.
The right to be flexible
Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone - employers, employees and their families. Most employers now recognise that it makes good business sense to provide flexible working opportunities for their staff. 'Flexible working' is a phrase that describes any working pattern adapted to suit your needs. Common types of flexible working are:
- flexi time: choosing when to work (there's usually a core period during which you have to work)
- annualised hours: your hours are worked out over a year (often set shifts with you deciding when to work the other hours)
- compressed hours: working your agreed hours over fewer days
- staggered hours: different starting, break and finishing times for employees in the same workplace
- job sharing: sharing a job designed for one person with someone else
- homeworking: working from home
- part time: working less than the normal hours, perhaps by working fewer days per week
Remember, this list is not exhaustive and there may be other forms of flexible working that are better suited to you and your employer.
Who can ask for flexible working?
Anyone can ask their employer for flexible work arrangements, but the law provides some employees with the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern.You must:
- be an employee, but not an agency worker or in the armed forces
- have worked for your employer for 26 weeks' continuously before applying
- not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months
You will then have the statutory right to ask if you:
- have or expect to have parental responsibility of a child aged under 17
- have or expect to have parental responsibility of a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- are the parent/guardian/special guardian/foster parent/private foster carer or as the holder of a residence order or the spouse, partner or civil partner of one of these and are applying to care for the child
- are a carer who cares, or expects to be caring, for an adult who is a spouse, partner, civil partner or relative; or who although not related to you, lives at the same address as you.
Under the law your employer must seriously consider an application you make, and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so. You have the right to ask for flexible working - not the right to have it. Employers can reasonably decline your application where there is a legitimate business ground.
Employees who do not have the legal right to request flexible working are, of course, free to ask their employer if they can work flexibly. Many employers are willing to consider such requests.
How to apply for flexible working
If you have the statutory right to apply, then there is a process you must follow.
The process of making a request and your employer considering it can take up to 14 weeks. So if you are thinking about changing your work pattern, speak to your employer as early as possible.
You should also be aware that if your employer agrees to your request, then it may result in a permanent change to your contract of employment. If you request a flexible working pattern that will result in you working fewer hours, your pay will reduce too.
If you do not have the right to request flexible working then the statutory process will still be helpful to you and you should consider speaking to your employer as early as possible.