Since June last year, UK employees have the right to request flexible working after having worked with their employer for at least 26 weeks. As the Head of HR at Reward Gateway, I received a mass of emails telling me about these new regulations, which in turn sparked a series of discussions in the HR community about how to manage it.
For most of our network, it's great news all round.
The world of work is constantly changing and it's so important for employers to keep up with it in order to attract and retain employees. We've operated a flexible working policy at Reward Gateway for a number of years, and it's built on a culture of trust amongst our employees.
I read the information to understand what was changing but it didn’t really resonate with me until more recently when I overheard someone on a train journey from London to Birmingham. They were talking about the process they had to go through in order to apply for flexible working. It went something like this;
The employee had to write a letter explaining why he wanted flexible working hours.
His manager then reviewed and approved the letter.
It was then sent to HR who gave their approval.
If approved, he would be invited to a meeting to discuss what options could work.
If that went OK he had to confirm in writing the agreed arrangements.
Then finally, he would await a response to confirm or deny his flexible working request.
So, why not be more flexible with it comes to flexible working?
I’d like to say at this point that I appreciate how much easier it is to have flexible working when a large portion of your workforce does not work in shifts to cover a particular service. We do however have a rota for some parts of our business and even then we don’t go through all this if someone wants to change their hours. We operate a simple two step process:
Employee talks to their manager.
They discuss and agree what works between them.
I thought about the reasons why we were lucky enough to ignore the more convoluted regulations, and was proud to realise that it was because of the strong relationships we've built with employees at RG and the culture of transparency and trust.
We offer everyone the right to ask, and pretty much always grant (within the boundaries of common and business sense) flexible working to make their lives that little bit easier.
And it's not just about having a late start one day because you’re going to play golf/get your hair cut/attend a family event. We also encourage employees to take time out of their day jobs for personal development or volunteering. (Finally, an explanation for the picture of our staff in welly boots!)
Our employees really value this as one of our core no-fuss benefits.
If you can back it up with a clear and well-communicated process to action the requests, why not make it as simple as possible?
Sarah is our former UK-based Head of Diversity and People Experience. She's obsessed with making RG a happier place to work, holds the proud title of our No. 1 Beyoncé fan and is an expert on holiday planning and spreadsheets.