The latest labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on data from July-September 2017, shows that unemployment fell by 59,000 while vacancies increased slightly.
Whilst that is positive for those in work; employers who are already struggling to fill roles will be concerned to see that the number of people out of work has fallen yet again, reducing the talent pool even further.
So could offering flexible working be the answer? Employers hear that a way to both attract, and just as important, retain the skills that they need both now and in the future is to not only welcome flexible working policies but to build them into the recruitment process to achieve that much “sought after” work-life balance.
So how does an employer go about putting a flexible working policy in place?
“Flexible working” is not a “new” concept; in fact these practices have been an option and worked successfully for a long time in a number of employment sectors. This has ensured that employers have met the changing needs of not only their staff – those who want to achieve a better balance between work and home life, but also their customers – those who expect to have goods and services available outside traditional working hours.
However, employers of any size need to look carefully at the considerations when contemplating flexible working practices; the match between business needs and the way in which their employees work is imperative; and introducing flexible patterns of work can help to achieve this equilibrium between maximising the available labour and improving customer service.
How do you develop a flexible working policy?
An employer should base its policies on a combination of the needs of the organisation, its customers and its employees and the introduction of a “Flexible Working Policy” in an organisation can help to ensure consistency in how flexible working is discussed and handled.
Before creating a policy, you should consider the motivations behind its creation, such as improved production levels, better work-life balance for employees, better customer care as well as more committed employees.
It is important that employees (or their representatives) and not just management should be involved in contributing their views on any flexible working practice proposals as often they will be aware of the practical and potential problems of introducing new forms of flexible working.
A flexible working policy could simply focus on encouraging employees to consider flexible working practices and what their options are. As such it should include:
- a statement that actively encourages employees to consider flexible working arrangements, provided that both the organisation’s and the employees objectives are met
- that the organisation is committed to ensuring that individuals who request flexible working arrangements are not treated less favourably then their colleagues
- details of the various flexible working options available
- how employees can request a flexible working arrangement
- where to find further information
If there is not already a policy in place it could also refer to the statutory right to request flexible working and what the organisations processes are for handling such requests.
Acas has developed a sample flexible working policy that can be adapted which can be found on the ACAS website by clicking here.
The importance of reviewing your policy
With a policy in place, employers should continuously encourage their employees to use it by communicating its benefits and its successes. However it should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is achieving what it was designed for.
If business needs change then the policy may need to be adjusted, so employers should ask for regular feedback from employees, through team meetings and appraisals, to help evaluate how the current policy is working and any future improvements or ideas they may have.
You may also wish to monitor absence and sickness levels as well as staff engagement levels and the take-up of flexible working to monitor its effectiveness. This will give an insight into the impact flexible working arrangements have had on the organisation.
Please note this article contains general overview information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.