Why should your business embrace flexible working?

1st March 2017

shutterstock_292543157 Nearly one in five [18%] of working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey published in October 2016.

Being a working mum myself, I am all too aware of how hard it is to go back to the workplace. Flexible working is a great way to balance work and family life for me, but it does however have to work both ways. Some employers and employees are not fully understanding of how it works to the benefit of both.

Research paints bleak picture of flexible working

The survey of over 2,000 women in Workingmums.co.uk’s 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter of mums in work [26%] have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter [27%] said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

For women currently on maternity leave the figures were higher: 35% of those who had had a flexible working request turned down had had it rejected on grounds other than reasons which are allowable under flexible working legislation. Some 68% said they did not feel the rejection was justified. However, 79% did not appeal. This was not surprising given only 5% appealed successfully. Some 41% of those on maternity leave said refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, yet 50% said they had not discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave.

The survey shows that availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mums, with some element of homeworking the most valued, particularly for those wanting to work full time. Other barriers included childcare costs – half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them returning to work.

Flexible working is a particularly hot topic at the moment. But what does the term flexible working mean and what does it mean for an employer and an employee?

Why should I have flexible working in my business?

  • A reduction in staff turnover.
  • Allows people to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and enjoy working. (e.g. morning person vs. night person).
  • Extended hours of operation for departments such as customer service.
  • Develops image as an employer of choice with family-friendly flexible work schedules.
  • There are also key organisational challenges you need to address to make flexible work schedules support your business. In and of themselves, as a positive benefit for employees, flexible work schedules support employee engagement, positive morale, and retention. But, flexible work schedules must operate to meet the needs of the business, too. A business will need to ensure it has everything in place regarding the payroll to support this.

Vodafone’s survey of 8000 companies in 2016 ‘Flexible: friend or foe?’ suggested real business benefits for those organisations that have embraced flexible working. Indeed 61 per cent of respondents said their company’s profits increased and 83 per cent reported an improvement in productivity’


Who has the right to request flexible working?

Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made. An employee can only make one statutory request in any 12-month period. Employees who have been employed for less than 26 weeks, agency workers and office holders do not have a statutory right to request flexible working. Nevertheless, employers may still wish to consider a request from these groups as flexible working can bring business benefits as well as benefits to the employee.

What flexible working hours can eligible employees request?

Eligible employees can request:

  • a change to the hours they work
  • a change to the times when they are required to work
  • to work from home.

This flexible approach embraces everything from part-time work, job shares, term time work to working some or all of their hours from home. The employer has a duty to consider their requests seriously, although they do not have to accede to the request.

Finding a payroll solution 

Flexible working also presents challenges for a business’s payroll function. With employees potentially anywhere in the world and working hours outside the 9-5, keeping accurate records is vital to providing accurate pay. Businesses need a payroll function that is flexible and able mitigate the risk of overpayments and other errors.

Payroll teams need to make sure that employee working hours are accurately recorded. The best way is to record time worked by the hour. This will give the payroll team reassurance that their data is as accurate as possible.

Above all, businesses need a payroll solution that’s fit for purpose. As more and more businesses make the move to a flexible working model, a seamless and accurate payroll solution, whether in-house or outsourced, is more important than ever. Failure to effectively track remote workers’ hours will lead to confusion, over payment, and even more work for payroll teams.

You can have flexible working and still stay in control, try downloading our eBook. You will find information on the following,

  • New flexible working requirements, and the implications for payroll.
  • How to ensure accurate time & attendance recording.
  • How to implement an effective auto-enrolment processes.
  • How to maximise the value of Flexible Working.