Back to school & flexible working, it’s not only about the kids

Summer’s out for school.

The office is fuller again.

Everybody’s work-life balance is returning to normality. The holiday requests and unexpected time off for dependents has slowed a little.

With the start of the new school year you may have found that the number of applications for a change in working hours have increased.

Parents may want to start finishing earlier so that their kids don’t need a childminder.

Employees may want to reduce their working week, to positively impact their work-life balance.

Some may find that mentally, they would benefit from a newly-constructed week.

It’s not just flexible requests for childcare that can be submitted either. From June 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks service can submit an application for flexible working – for any reason.

It is your duty as an employer to address these queries in a fair and reasonable manner, whilst also being pragmatic about the impact the changes may have on your company.

The balance, can be hard to find.

Quickly, lets understand what ‘flexible working’ is.


It can be:

  • Flexi-time: Choosing when to work
  • Part-time: Working less than ‘normal’ hours
  • Annual hours: Working a set amount over the course of a year
  • Compressed hours: Working agreed hours over fewer days
  • Staggered hours: Working different hours to others (perhaps starting earlier, finishing earlier)

There are more options (working from home for example) but these are some of the basics you should definitely be aware of.

So what can you do to ensure that shaking up work patterns doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the office?

#1 – Treat everyone equally

Consider the reasoning behind everyone’s desire to change hours – not just parents or carers.

Compromise can be found, but by having a flexible working policy in place allows an open discussion between employee and employer.

You don’t want to upset the way your business runs on a day-today basis, but by giving a little here and there, you can keep everybody happy.

#2 – Grant flexibility, with accountability

A worry many managers have when granting a drastic change to working hours, is a drop in productivity. Therefore, allow people their flexible hours, so long as they are hitting the same deadlines and targets as they were previously. You’re well within your rights to expect such.

Should anyone start to fall short of expectations, you can deal with this via your usual management procedures (performance and capability), and even allow a trial period of hours whereby you can return them to their normal schedule if it is not working.

Allowing people their flexible hours will have a positive impact on health and well-being. The targets and productivity need not change and if anything you may find staff are more productive working for a flexible, reasonable employer.

#3 – Don’t be forced

You can reject a request to change employment hours, but you must reject it on fair and business grounds.

There are 3 key things that you must be sure to do:

  • Give your answer within three months of the request
  • Give a permitted reason
  • Give a factually correct reason

The legislation does not give employees the right to work flexibly. Instead it provides a right to request flexible working.

So if somebody at your company has recently requested a change to their agreed employment hours and you’re not sure how to handle it, give us a call.