F is for Flexible Working

Many business owners we work with contact us with questions about flexible working.    There is a lot of confusion around the rights of workers to request flexible working, which isn’t surprising as the legislation around flexible working has change a number of times over the last few years.

The kind of questions of questions managers have include:

  • Is flexible working just for women?
  • Is flexible working just for parents with children?  Or can it also apply for those who have elderly dependent parents?
  • How much time can staff take off paid or unpaid?
  • How much notice do they need to give when they make a flexible working request?

And the most frequently answered question is “Can I refuse my member of staff’s request to work flexibly”

We can answer all these questions and help you navigate around the different forms of flexible working that will help you maintain productivity and efficiency in your organisation as well as ensuring that you retain valued staff.     We can help you with:

  • Parental Leave
  • Adoption Leave
  • Maternity Leave
  • Paternity Leave
  • Term Time Working
  • Annualised Hours
  • Temporarily Reduced Working Hours
  • Job Share
  • Flexi-Time (staggered working hours)
  • Compressed Hours (working 5 days work over 4 days)
  • Special Leave (JP, Territorial Army etc)

If you’re interested to know how we can help you with your flexible working queries and requests, please visit our website.


Is your business ready for England’s Summer of Sport?

Euro 2012 has officially started, Wimbledon is around the corner and it’s only a few weeks before the Olympics commence.   Everyone’s talking about it, but have you taken time to think about what the impact might be on your business?

You will find that your staff request time off to watch their country at key events, and you may end up trying to juggle their attendance whilst still providing a high quality and response service to  your clients.   Below are a few suggestions that can help you with this:

1) Look at the working patterns within the team.

– Can your staff work more flexible hours during this period?  For example, they agreed to work “core hours” during the day, but choose to start or finish earlier so that they are able to watch their chosen event.

– Alternatively, if the nature of your business allows this, encourage your staff to swap shifts.

– You could ask your staff if some want to work overtime (or to accrue Time Off in Lieu) to cover the absence of their colleagues

2) Consider how you could ensure that your staff are able to watch key events whilst at work by offering special screening on premises.  Alternatively, you could allow staff to keeping track of events on the Internet, a TV or radio while they work

3) Ensure that you adhere to your legislative requirements.  If you offer special screenings at work, ensure that you have  a TV license.    Ensure that you are keeping within Health and Safety guidelines: for example, listening to the radio whilst at work could decrease an employee’s concentration and potentially lead to a workplace
4) Some businesses, particularly in London, will be impacted by the increase in traffic during this summer.   Journeys to work could take considerably longer than it normally does, and in the worse case scenario you might find that your staff are late to work.
Again, by speaking to your staff you can find ways around this.    Discuss the possibility of staff working from home or perhaps working at different sites which are closer to home or more convenient in terms of travel.

It’s important that that you are consistent across your business, regardless of the approach you decide to take .  If you put special arrangements in place, let your staff know that these are on a  temporary basis.  And ensure that you monitor and review the working arrangements.

We have a truly exciting summer ahead of us.  Talk to your staff, put plans in place and enjoy.

My thoughts on the ConnectingHR Unconference

I admit it…..I was the one that was jealous – the person who @RobJones_Tring was referring to at the beginning of the day. I’d followed previous tweet-ups and unconferences via my twitter stream.  I watched interesting conversations unfold, could feel the energy in the room and the connections being made.  The day after I would sense a different “vibe” on twitter amongst the attendees.

Without doubt, the fact that many of us connect on an almost daily basis via Twitter influenced the flow and energy of the event.  For example:

1.  There was no need to network (which I hate).  Some conversations started with “What do you do?” but many also began with a question relating to a tweet someone has recently made.    We moved from a virtual relationship to a real one seamlessly.

2.  There was no “positioning” or game playing between attendees.  There’s no point…..we were all in the room as we like each other’s company on Twitter and the unconference was an opportunity to turn our 140 character debates into something more.

3.  We would used our knowledge of each other to propel debates forward or to seek clarification on certain points.  It felt safe to do this, and this was based on trust and respect developed prior to the event itself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you had to be active on Twitter to enjoy the event.  I just think the fact that relationships developed on Twitter prior the event help generate the incredible energy that we all felt.

And what did I get out of the event?   My main learning is that whilst technically HR theory & practice is the same wherever you work, it is the sector or industry that influences how HR is operationalised.  For example:

1. On performance management:  I sat back and listened. During the discussion the idea of doing away with a formal performance management system was mooted.  One drawback?  It’s linked to reward.   And that’s where we’re different in the NHS: we don’t link performance management to reward.   And that’s perhaps why, for years, we didn’t really push our organisations to undertake annual appraisals.  This has changed recently and whilst the quantity is up our new challenge is quality.

2.  On flexible working:  this discussion explored trust, the nature of management – employee relations and about looking at work outputs as opposed to time served.  In the NHS, the majority of our workforce have to cover a 24 hour service.  Even if they get all their work done in their 8 hour shift, they have to remain “on-duty” in the event of any emergencies that will require their clinical support.  For the NHS, flexible working is more about finding a way to offer these staff an off-duty (the rota) that supports a work-life balance.

3.  On theory vs practice:  It was heart-warming to hear so many HR practitioners talk about their evidence based approach.  One participant talked about how he enjoys reading the links from People Management articles, and how it enables him to more fully understand the topic being discussed.  I often get down-hearted as I meet NHS HR practitioners who don’t understand how theory underpins their practice.  When I coach NHS  HR teams I spend time exploring this concept and what they can do to increase their theoretical knowledge and how this relates to their practice.

Having said all that, from the discussions held today I firmly believe that there are concepts that I learnt about today that could cross over to the “dark-side” (ie the public sector).

And what would I like to see next time?

1.  Biscuits (and I’m happy to bring my own!)

2. A way to capture all the references that participants made.  Lots of people talked about journal articles or books that they had read.  I now want to read them….but I can’t remember the exact details or even who made the reference.

At the end of the day I feel inspired and I enjoyed the experience.  I’m sorry I didn’t stay until the very end (and once again I think I missed out!).    My thanks goes to Jon and Gareth for organising such a great event and to everybody else who helped facilitate the day.  Here’s to the next one!

Flexible working & Staff Surveys

Every year in the NHS, we undertake a staff survey.  It seeks to measure a range of different topics and the results can be analysed on a national level.   One of these topics is flexible working. 

Flexible working is incredibly important in the NHS and is a key element of any staff engagement strategy.  

Last week I triggered a discussion with an HRD around the uptake of flexible working within their Trust (they had not performed well in this area on their most recent staff survey).  I shared the findings from an assignment I undertook last year with another NHS Trust.   I had been asked to explore the reasons why the uptake of flexible working was so poor within this organisation.   The outcome was that staff were working flexibly;  they just didn’t realise it, and they hadn’t formalised any flexible working agreements.  As a result, the staff hadn’t ticked the “I work flexibly” box on the survey. 

In response to these findings, this Trust invested in promotional materials and raised awareness of the different types of flexible working that are available to staff.  In this year’s staff survey, the Trust scored higher than last year on flexible working.

I’ve been asked to explore this issue with another Trust this year – who are expecting similar results: they believe they do have a significant number of staff working flexibly, it’s just not reflected in their survey.   

I like to be an optimist, and think that flexible working is embedded in the NHS; that in it’s natural form it’s a working arrangement that arises out of an informal chat between a member of staff and their manager.   But the realist in me is asking: is it really that simple?