Flexible Working – Burden? What Burden? (by Belinda Newton)

Conflicting advice has emerged from the Coalition Government on the next steps for flexible working rights in the workplace. With rumours of scaling back flexible working rights or pushing towards everyone having the right to request flexible working, there is a message that is being missed. We have preached about maintaining a work/life balance and how important it is for fathers to take an active role in their child’s upbringing and then we are surprised when people want to do it.

The right to request flexible working is available to anyone who has a child under the age of 17, or 18 for a disabled child or caring for a dependent adult. With an ageing population, that covers a lot of people. The employee must have 26 weeks continuous service to request a variation to their working patterns. The business may deny the request if it demonstrates that it is not workable for a justifiable business reason – real not imagined!

Dealing with flexible working requests can be daunting for small businesses. Though there are statutory rules on how to process these requests, most small businesses do not understand the consequences of not keeping to the timescales. While there were only 277 cases relating to flexible working out of 218,100 claims in 2010, most are settled out of court because of the cost of defence and the impact on the business. You cannot defend the indefensible when failing to follow a statutory procedure.

Belinda Newton, Director of The HR Dept Exeter says “If an employee is engaged, happy and spreading the word about your brand and delivering value to the business then flexible working can be a powerful resource. It is a shame that flexible working can be seen as a taboo subject, but that is more than likely because of the strict rules around requests and the fear of consequences as opposed to the benefits if a request is accepted and managed properly for the business.”


For further information please contact Belinda Newton at The HR Dept Exeter, 0845 863 0653, belinda.newton@hrdept.co.uk, www.hrdept.co.uk. Belinda is a human resources professional specialising in providing advice to small and medium sized businesses on all on HR and employment issues.