Following the introduction of flexible working legislation in 2014, 70% of businesses are expected to accommodate flexible working by 2020. All UK employees now have the right to make a statutory application for flexible working once they have been employed for at least 26 months.
Employers must deal with all requests in a reasonable manner, assessing the advantages and disadvantages and discussing the situation in a meeting with the employee. While they do have the right to turn down the request, they must have a good business reason for doing so.
Flexible working can include part-time or flexi-time work, job sharing, working from home or remotely, compressed hours, term-time work or other arrangements. This can actually improve productivity and morale, and should lead to a better work-life balance. Plus, it should lead to reduced overheads and increased loyalty for the company. However, flexible working can also lead to headaches for management if the following practicalities are not properly considered.
1. Risk assessment
When introducing flexible working, it’s important to do a thorough risk assessment, both generally and on a case-by-case basis. If employees are working remotely, for instance, then you need to make sure their new working environment meets health and safety requirements. Safety issues also need to be considered if employees are coming into the workplace outside of normal hours. You can find out more about DSE risk assessments and their role in a remote working risk assessment by reading our Guide to DSE risk assessments.
2. Data security
If employees are taking work home, they may also be taking sensitive information with them. Everyone has heard stories of ministers or civil servants leaving confidential files or laptops in taxi cabs. Being aware of data security means making sure that access to sensitive information is controlled at all times and that vital data is backed up in at least one secure location.
3. Commercial insurance
There are many kinds of commercial insurance that may be affected by flexible working. For instance, if employees are going to be working from locations other than the office or regular workplace, you need to make sure you’ll still be covered by employers’ liability insurance should they make a claim against you. Such a claim could be made for damage to their own property incurred due to working from home, as well as for personal injury.
4. Home insurance
Standard home contents insurance often doesn’t cover items used for professional or business purposes. Items such as laptops and mobile phones may also not be covered when taken outside the home. Similarly, office equipment may not be covered when taken to another location by employees. If important paperwork, stock or samples are taken home, you also need to make sure that they remain insured.
For many managers and employers, the biggest worry about flexible working is the risk of a breakdown in communication. It can be more difficult for employees to work together as a team, and overseeing work becomes more difficult. These are valid concerns, and ways need to be found to overcome them, whether they involve digital communication using messenger apps, or regular informal team meetings to compare notes.
Flexible hours can convey many advantages and look set to become the norm. However, businesses need to take steps to adapt to this modern way of working in order to enjoy the full advantages.