In the modern world we barely have time to stop and think about how to juggle all of our commitments in our hectic schedules as our professional and personal timetables are ever more squeezed. The need to prioritise and balance office hours, family time and any other activities we have said yes to can become a job in itself. Let’s face it, we all live in a 24-hour society, with instant access to emails on smart phones and laptops, as well media that we can pause, record and consume at times of our choosing, meaning the modern world is a pretty frantic environment for most people to be. In light of this, it is surprising that the modern workplace has perhaps lagged behind the rest of the contemporary world in giving people flexibility to design a schedule that works best for them. We are still stuck fairly rigidly to Dolly Parton-esque 9-5 models (or 8-6!) for most people. But from an HR perspective, we all know how important it is to run a happy ship in getting the most productive and diligent performances from your employees. It is seriously worth considering the value of flexible working hours for your team to help you and them get the best out of all the time spent at work. 

This is something that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has addressed passionately in recent weeks and is going to be introduced into employment legislation from 2015. Clegg commented that: “The problem comes down to a whole range of clapped-out rules and arrangements…Arrangements which assume families are still comprised of one bread winner and one homemaker”. The government’s new laws will affect the right’s of all employees, giving everyone reasonable rights to flexible working times wherever possible. It will also shore up the rights of new parents, giving greater scope for parents to share paternity and maternity leave up over 12 months in a way that suits individual families. This last point is of particular political interest, with the hot button topic of gender equality in the workplace. We have become very good at encouraging young women to strive for highflying and satisfying careers, but are still struggling to solve conundrums such as the pay gap, as women’s careers invariably hit the breaks in their late 20s and 30s as they begin to have families. The new laws mean parents can divide up time off between them for a total of 12 months, with a total of 9 months guaranteed pay; this greater flexibility aims to bring the modern workplace more in line with modern families.

Flexible working rights touch upon what hours you must work, for how long, when you must start or finish and certain periods in which you must be present. The new laws aim to make it easier for everybody to apply for flexible working hours where possible and reasonable.  From child care, to caring for elderly or sick relatives, to personal appointments, or even just a stressful period at home, everybody has times where sticking to a strict workplace routine is either difficult or intrusive. Employers, by embracing sound HR principles and having open channels of communication with employees can start to embrace and adapt to these changes before the government obliges them to do so in 2015. Greater flexibility for your staff gives greater flexibility to your business; so how can you help?  If you would like to know what options are available to you, make you HR department your first port of call.  Honesty from both sides, means a cooperative resolution will be easier to achieve for both you as an employee, and your business. 

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