Part of maximising the business benefits of flexible working is understanding all the different options available. It’s not just about reducing hours, there are many other options available, and even if employees don’t request them specifically, understanding them is useful and may help in compromising to an arrangement which works for all concerned.
So other than just reducing hours and going part-time, what else is there?
This is where someone continues to work their full time hours but works them over a shorter period of time, typically four or four and a half days, or sometimes as a nine day fortnight. This enables the employee to keep their full time salary, and ensures there is (at least in theory) no drop in output.
However, compressed hours can be problematic, especially if the employee did regular overtime previously, either paid or unpaid, and you need to consider issues such as tiredness where long days are involved, and perceived unfairness if other employees regularly work longer days without extra pay.
If your employee requesting compressed hours is proposing to do this by halving their lunchbreak, that can work brilliantly if most people in the business take a full hour lunch. But if most people aren’t paid for an hour at lunchtime but actually only take half an hour anyway, compressing hours that way is going to be problematic.
Variable hours and flexitime
These arrangements give employees more control over their hours and start and finish times, usually within set parameters such as core working hours or days. Considerations would include whether the role is suitable for this type of arrangement, how the employee will be managed and monitored, how hours will be recorded, what notice the employee needs to give of their planned hours, and, if several employees are doing it, how you will ensure full cover of the office.
You also need to think about whether you’ll allow hours to be “banked” and taken off later, how much say the employee will have about the timings of this, or whether it’s just going to be an ability to vary start and finish times.
Variable hours and flexitime arrangements are more commonly workable if they are across the board rather than for individual roles.
Job-sharing is when two part-time workers share a job, usually a full time one. The job is most commonly divided by time, doing the same duties the first and second half of the week, but it could also be separating the duties out to suit skills. To make job sharing work effectively usually requires either a weekly handover period or regular meetings between the two job sharers.
Sometimes two people apply for a full time job together, or sometimes you have a full timer who wants to reduce hours and you recruit a job share partner. If you agree to a job share arrangement, this needs setting out clearly in a contract or letter, including details of what happens if one job share partner resigns.
With the development of technology, it has become easier for a wide variety of roles to be done from home, either all the time, part of the time or occasionally. Many employees are more productive out of the office environment but not all, so be sure the worker in question will be effective working this way. You also need to bear in mind health and safety, security, equipment, contact and management for a successful homeworking arrangement.
Some employees work only during school term time, and this is no longer confined to roles within an academic environment as employers are more open to the concept. Term-time working is especially useful for parents as it avoids the problem of childcare for school holidays.
However many roles simply cannot accommodate this arrangement, especially those where the busy time is during the summer. If you are considering a term-time working arrangement for one of your employees you need to consider things like whether the employee will be able to take holiday during term time or must confine it to school holiday time, whether to pay the employee for the time worked when it is worked, or spread their annual total over 12 months.
You need to also consider the impact on others. If your business is quiet during the summer anyway, the impact on other staff might be very small. But if you’re busy year-round, you might end up having to refuse holiday requests in summer time for remaining staff, and that might cause difficulties.
This arrangement can be very flexible, and involves totalling up the hours the employee is contracted to work during the year, and allowing them either some or complete flexibility in when they work those hours. An annualised hours arrangement can be similar to term-time working as it may enable employees to work longer hours during term time and reduce hours right down or take a lot of leave during school holidays.
Things to consider include how hours will be recorded, how holiday will be accrued and booked, and what if any restrictions will be placed on the employee in terms of when they can work extra or take time off.
So there is a wide variety of possible flexible working arrangements, and parameters can be set on all of them so be open minded and actively consider whether there is an arrangement that might work for your employee and your business. Once you’ve found something that may work, remember the following:
- Consider a trial period
- Be clear about what restrictions there are within the arrangement
- Keep on top of managing the employee and monitoring them
- Make sure you involve them in the business if their arrangement involves periods of unpaid leave or homeworking so they don’t get isolated
- Put the arrangement in writing with details of any contractual and procedural arrangements such as holiday booking and training attendance.
If you have any further queries on flexible working in your business and need some advice, do get in touch.