Law guide: Employment

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Flexible working

Flexible working

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Certain employees have the right to request flexible working. If you receive such a request, you have a legal duty to give it serious consideration. There are specific steps that must be followed and for applications made by employees in Northern Ireland, there are strict time scales.

Business benefits of having flexible working arrangements

  • Flexible working arrangements can bring the following improvements to your business: Greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency, such as savings on overheads when employees work from home or less downtime for machinery when 24-hour shifts are worked.
  • The chance to have extended operating hours, e.g. later closing times for retailers.
  • The ability to attract a higher level of skills as the business is able to attract and retain a skilled and more diverse workforce.
  • More job satisfaction and better staff morale.
  • Lower staff turnover (thereby saving on recruitment costs), as staff who might otherwise have left are offered hours they can manage.
  • Reduced levels of sickness absence.
  • Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as a result of the above.
  • Improved competitiveness, such as being able to react to changing market conditions more effectively.

Flexible working policy

Creating a flexible working policy does not have to be difficult. However, you need to plan, implement and monitor its introduction across your business.

You should inform and consult employees and any recognised trade unions before you introduce it. This may help them understand how flexible working arrangements may impact on your business.

When planning to implement a policy, you will need to consider the following:

  • What flexible working arrangements will suit the business?
  • How will you deal with applications, e.g. who will attend the meetings and how will the administration work?
  • Are there jobs that might be difficult to do under a flexible working arrangement, e.g. jobs that don't suit homeworking?
  • If there are, what is the nature of the obstacle and can you perhaps overcome it?
  • How good are your IT arrangements, e.g. can employees access their email or your network, away from the workplace?

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