Flexible working shakeup to boost morale and productivity, says Nick Clegg

New legislation brought in by the coalition government has opened up flexible working to employees across Britain.

Flexible working schemes will now be available to those beyond carers or people looking after children, the government has announced.

In a bid to provide the workforce with greater flexibility, a drive led by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has reformed adaptable working practices.

Outlining the change, Clegg says that businesses will now be able to keep their top talent and grow accordingly. ‘It’s about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families,’ he adds.

On top of the flexible working alterations, Shared Parental Leave, being introduced next year, will allow mothers and fathers chose how they care for their new-born children.

While set to provide workers with more choice, the new regulations only require that employers consider staff requests for flexible working in a ‘reasonable manner’.

GrowthBusiness columnist Christian Lanng believes it is great to see that the UK is implementing a flexible working law, but caveated by the fact that employers still have the power to refuse – which some understandably will.

‘It can be daunting for those who haven’t instilled such a policy in the workplace – unoccupied desks can make management feel out of control and they may question how hard their employees are working,’ he comments.

‘But getting the job done is what fundamentally matters. Businesses should trust their employees to get their workload done in the way that best works for them, which can be incredibly motivating and morale boosting for both.’

Having looked at the issue during his last post for GrowthBusiness, Lanng recommends setting targets, rather than a number of hours, to represent the creation of value for business.

More on flexible working:

Healthcare and risk-management business Healix is one such company that has allowed staff to request flexible working, and now sees over a third working from home for part of the time.

After reporting lower staff turnover and levels of stress, co-founder Paul Beven says, ‘Flexible working is great for both our business and our employees.

‘We have a motivated and dedicated workforce and our people benefit from having the flexibility to balance work with other commitments in their lives.’

The government says that a new code of practice, to help employers deal with flexible working requests in the required reasonable manner, will allay some of the concerns some may have. David Cameron and his coalition predict that some 182,000 requests will be put in a year, while the benefits could rise to £55.8 million.

If a request is turned down, it can only be done for the reasons of: burden of additional costs; detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands; inability to reorganise work among existing staff; inability to recruit additional staff; detrimental impact on quality; detrimental impact on performance; insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work and planned structural changes.

Having turned down a resist, a staff member has the right to appeal. However, if this is not successful, they can then not make another request for a year.

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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