Flexible Working

Posted in : HR Updates on 12 August 2015
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services
Issues covered:

Anecdotally, it seems that there is a general move away from the 9–5 “standard” working practice and a tendency towards greater flexibility in the working day. Zero-hours contracts and home-working are both growing at a rate of knots and adding to the options available to employer and employee, but is this new flexibility only available to a select few?

There was a time in the not so distant past when flexible working was primarily wanted by people who were attempting to fit work around childcare commitments. It is certainly not the case now; many people want flexible working for a great variety of reasons.

Flexible working is not only about moving away from the traditional rigid 9–5 structure. Working from home (or alternative locations) is also part of the flexibility we demand. Reducing time spent in a fixed location means reducing travel needs (and costs) and also has an impact on how we can fit work around the other elements of our lives. Flexible working can also make it easier for some people to manage certain jobs by reducing the amount of travel required by people with disabilities, for example, or by enabling people with an illness to carry out their commitments on their “well” days.

Many people who want flexible working will not apply for posts that do not state that flexible working is available as they will assume the hours stated are the only option. This will not only stop people who need flexible working from progressing, but it also leaves potentially good workers unemployed. Many of us think that asking for flexible working somehow means that we will be looked on less favourably as employees than others.

Employees have offered flexible working patterns to employers where these are needed for as long as work has existed — shift systems are a case in point. To get the best employees now, it is necessary for employers to return the favour.

Technology developments, particularly in communication, mean that many more employers are able to be more creative and flexible in how employees carry out their work. There is also a growing knowledge base and empirical evidence about how flexible working patterns work and what needs to be in place for them to be successful.

Flexible working is very much losing its negative image as something that is only needed by those people who cannot do a “proper day’s work” because of their other (mostly childcare) needs and as something that is only offered by companies who cannot get other workers. Flexible working is being demanded by a diverse range of people, who have as much ability to be valuable and effective workers as anyone else, perhaps more so.

Companies need to modernise how they hire people, not just in how they meet the needs of existing employees. Flexible working patterns are not going to go away. In fact, with further technological developments, and with the growing expectation that life outside work should be given as much (if not more) importance as work itself, the clamour for flexible working is only going to get louder. The companies that are likely to succeed are those that work with employees (and potential employees) to find the optimum ways to flexible working patterns.

This article is correct at 19/10/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

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