Flexible working improves efficiency

Mar 11 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Allowing parents to request flexible working will improve the functioning of organisations across the UK and help them to run smoother, according to HR professionals.

Responding to a poll on HR Gateway, 56 per cent of the 222 respondents said that the new legislations to be introduced next month will ‘improve’ the functioning of their organisation.

In contrast, only 23 per cent said that the new Employment Bill changes would ‘hamper’ their organisation while the remaining 21 per cent said that they would bring ‘no change’ at all.

Angela Baron of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said today that while the figures were in line with the CIPD’s own research, she was surprised that so many HR professionals could see the benefits:

”Overall, HR does feel that the changes will improve organisational functioning but I am surprised that so many can actively see the benefits. This is probably because many understand that most jobs can be run flexibly.

”Organisations that have already implemented flexible working are enjoying the benefits of better productivity, better organised cover and reduced absence, it is good to see HR firmly behind the changes,” she said.

Mark Crail, managing editor of IRS Employment Review also said that the findings were in line with its research and said that as the new right does not go far beyond having the right to ask, the impact on employers should be minimal:

”What the changes will do is force employers to sit down and think about the circumstances under which they are prepared to grant or refuse a request, and the procedures they will use to reach their decision - and, of course, they will need to keep in mind equal opportunities and other legislation when they draw up that list.

”That aspect might mean a little more work at the start, but in the longer run it means managers will have clearer guidance about what they should do in any particular set of circumstances,’ he said.

Research from IRS recently revealed that many employers do not currently have clear criteria for agreeing or rejecting an employee's application to work flexibly. This is understandable said Crail today, but said that work-life balance is too serious an issue to be left to ‘ad hoc’ arrangements:

”Most employers deal with cases on an ad hoc basis. That's understandable given the enormous range of options covered by the term 'flexible working' but if we are going to be serious about work-life balance then everyone - managers and employees alike - need to know where they stand,” he said.