Flexible working - your views

Apr 16 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

April 6 saw the introduction of new legislation giving the 3.8m UK parents of children under 6, and parents with disabled children under 18 the legal right to request flexible working arrangements.

Although welcomed by many, the Institute of Directors called it a “Black day” for business. Others have criticised the legislation as discriminatory becuase it only affects parents.

How will this legislation affect worker relationships? Who will gain and at what cost to business? Are flexibility and commitment to work mutually exclusive?

Older Comments

It cannot be simply a case of looking at this one piece of legislation in isolation. It would be churlish to find fault with the guiding principles or sentiment behind this piece of policy.

It is the cumulative effect of all the various pieces of extra legislation and regulation which is helping to create the 'Perfect Storm' for British business and employment prospects within the global village.

This was a point brought home to me when I attended the ABI National Conference. Amongst the many things that I learned was the remarkable fact that the ABI alone now employs a department of 20 people simply to keep track of the torrents of new legislation and red tape emanating from government. With the greatest respect and deference to those good people who work in that department, this isn't exactly the sort of thing that I have in mind when I think of job creation!

Several speakers made the point that the increasing costs of this 'torrent' can only be paid for in one way for businesses to remain competitive - by cutting jobs. It is not the big plcs that have the main impact here - it is the massive numbers of SMEs who may lose one person from 15 to pay for all this. Across the country and over time that will have an impact, but a subtle one, and one I would suggest that cannot be properly gauged by the statisticians until after it has happened - by which time it will be too late.

That is not I would suggest the kind of 'flexibility' the Government had in mind when they launched this new raft of red tape on us all on a wave of good intentions...

Steve Huxham

'Within the recruitment industry flexible working tends to be successful, although how flexible one can be does depend on the position of the individual within the company. For example, if a researcher ( who is non client facing) wants to do flexible work then they could manage doing only 3 days a week but for a consultant (who is client facing) 4 days would be more appropriate so that clients feel that they have a good point of contact for most of the week.

Flexible working often creates a more productive individual since they have a shorter number of hours or days in which to work on and complete the assignment so their time at work tends to be more focussed.

If a company offers flexible work to individuals then the employee is likely to remain with the company for a longer period of time. It is likely that they will feel that they owe their employer a debt of thanks which once again may make them more productive. Obviously costs for the employer are reduced, especially if the individual works from home , so the employer is also gaining from the reduced working hours.

On the negative side of things flexible working may cause problems with employees within the firm. If a time comes when there are a number of individuals who are requesting flexible working then there has to be a cut off point and the individuals who do not make the cut would obviously feel that they have been discriminated against. A team with one or two flexible workers is okay but many more than that means that it is difficult for assignments to be completed and so the extra work often ends up getting passed to the full time employees.

If managed correctly then flexible working can bring a lot of benefits to both the employees involved and the employers.'

Georgie Lion

The effect of the new flexible working rules has not been as widespread as many people anticipated, including the Government.

This is because rather than creating a right to flexible working, the new rules only provide a right to request flexible working. Employers are required to follow the statutory procedure in dealing with a request, but the regulations are drafted so that employers will not have too much difficulty in justifying a refusal of a request, particularly in the case of small to medium businesses where the impact on the rest of the workforce may be greater.

The Employment Unit at Thomas Eggar have produced a Flexible Working Guide, which which includes a set of our flexible working forms designed to make it as easy as possible for employers to deal with the statutory procedure, together with a flowchart and guide we have prepared to help you use the forms.

If you would like a copy of the pack or would like further advice regarding this topic please contact me at [email protected]

Nicola Brown