According to a recent CIPD report the vast majority of employers offer some form of flexible working which can include part time working, term time working, job sharing, flexitime, annual hours, working from home, mobile/tele working and career breaks. 

The term flexible working describes a working arrangement that has some degree of flexibility on  how long, where and when employees work.  However, it is reported that only 63% provide the right to request flexible working requests, yet in accordance with the Families and Work Act 2007 they are required by law.  Working at home is the most commonly offered option. Large organisations are more likely to be able to accommodate requests compared to SMEs and flexible working is more common in the public sector.  Women are more likely to use flexible working compared to men with most taking up part time hours.

Some factors contributing to the increased interest in the use of flexible working include:

The benefits of flexible working can be much improved organisational performance, however, there can be barriers to its implementation. The main one appears to be operational pressures.  Other barriers that feature highly are a need to maintain customer/service requirements, inability to effectively manage flexible workers, existing organisational culture and the attitudes of senior managers. It appears there are more barriers for larger organisations than micro businesses.  The biggest obstacles can be the nature of the work and little relevance to the work.

When making a flexible working request an employer may refuse it for a business-related reason which includes:   

Having a flexible working request refused can be quite a shock  to those who put in a request so employers should consider how to effectively communicate and implement flexible working.  The following tips may help: 

In addition, by providing a flexible working information pack that is given to employees containing lots of useful information on the process, provides further useful written communication.   The pack should contain a flexible working application form that allows the employee to describe the existing working pattern, the proposed changes, the impact the change would have on the role, workplace and colleagues with suggestions of how the impact could be dealt with.  This allows the employee to think through the implications for their request and to possibly overcome any rejection.   

In 2014 the government plans to extend flexible working practices to everyone and is currently consulting on this, therefore, it is really important, that employers get their act together and look at effective implementation as it is a powerful tool for staff commitment and retention.