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Flexible working –does it work for small businesses?

Recent research shows that flexible working is the most wanted work benefit. Although UK employees have had the right to request flexible working since 2014 some small businesses still feel unable to offer it - concerned about rising admin costs, potentially decreased productivity and worried it will be more difficult to meed customer needs. It is important to remember that although employees have the right to request flexible working, a company is legally able to refuse. See here for the government’s guidance on flexible working. 

However, flexible working has many advantages and a growing number of small businesses are seeing it as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Many SMEs assume that flexible working = part-time hours and dismiss it on that basis. A better way to look at it is work that fits around the employee’s needs while not compromising those of the employer. Many options are available, including working from home, compressed hours (where an employee does full-time hours over a shorter period), shift work and job-sharing. Even if offering employees part-time hours is not possible, one of these other options might work well for your business.

Companies that offer flexible working show commitment to their employees’ work/life balance and are rewarded with increased loyalty. You may even find you can reduce employee costs as part-time workers are just as effective, or cut down on your office expenses by allowing more home-working, or even that you are more able to respond to customers’ needs because you can open for longer periods.

Offering flexible working also means that you are free to recruit the best people for the job and are not limited only to those who can do the hours. People with outside commitments such as working parents or those with elderly dependents make up a huge pool of potential employees and one might have the perfect skills for your role.

Whether you decide that flexible working is right for your business or not, it is a good idea to have a policy in place. See ACAS for guidance and sample policies.

For more information on flexible working you can find a useful  and practical guide for small businesses here and another from the Telegraph here

Posted on Tuesday Sep 4