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Back to school and flexible working

Posted On: 05/09/2019

Seeing photographs of your friends’ children on their first day back at school on social media is commonplace during the first week of September. The pictures are full of smiles and excitement. But the pictures don’t tell the full story as many parents can become anxious as to how they will juggle their work commitments with the new challenges that arise when a child starts school.

For the continued health and wellbeing of a working parent an organisation should remain flexible in its approach to working hours.

Flexible working requests

A parent facing new or additional responsibilities has the right to ask for flexible working, this is a request to change their current working pattern to provide care for their child. These change requests can include:

Applying for flexible working

Employees with 26 weeks continued service or more can make a request for flexible working, known as a statutory application. Some organisations have their own policy for flexible working.

To apply an employee must put their request in writing detailing:

Once a manager receives this request is it best practice to discuss the arrangements with the individual to fully understand the reasons behind the change and to offer any other solutions or compromises which the employee may not have considered.

An agreement or refusal must be given to the employee usually within three months. If the request is to be refused there must be a legitimate business reason such as:

Temporary changes to a working pattern

Some parents may find themselves in a situation where they only need changes on a temporary basis. This can often be the case when a child starts school and the family need time to adjust. A request for a temporary change does not have to be as formal as the statutory application and can be initiated by a conversation between employee and manager.

An indefinite flexibility to the temporary arrangement will not be sustainable and both parties should agree an end date at which time the parent will return to their usual contract.  We would advise setting a maximum time limit of 12 months.

Taking a collaborative approach

Asking a team how they propose to adapt if a team member reduces their hours or arranges to work remotely can be extremely beneficial. Putting control back to the team will boost trust between employer and employee, strengthen the workplace culture and take some pressure off the line manager who has to manage the change.

Good Work Plan: The government’s proposals to support families

Within this plan the government has stated that it is aware that more must be done to improve the clarity and understanding of an organisations’ policies to maintain and increase momentum on closing the gender pay gap, to help individuals balance their work and childcare commitments and to maximise earning potential for all. The government aims to:

The government recognises that children need time with their parents to develop and flourish. “The role of parents in caring for and educating their children in these early years should not be underestimated and we want to give working parents the choice and flexibility they need to combine work with family life. Supporting working parents to combine work with childcare not only helps individual parents, it also helps the people that they work for: employers have access to a wider pool of talent and are better able to cultivate and retain that talent.”

We’ll keep our eye on this proposal and report back to you later in the year.

Benefits to the organisation

As the employee strikes a healthier work-life balance, the organisation benefits from:

We’re here to help

Give our team of HR professionals a call on 0161 941 2426 to support you with your flexible working requests and how best to accommodate them.

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