09 June 2014
Call for a caring approach to flexible working
With Carers Week taking place 9-15 June, a Buckinghamshire lawyer has welcomed changes in the law which could help carers to work more flexibly in the future.
From 30 June, new Flexible Working Regulations, part of the Children and Families Bill 2014, will come into force, giving all employees the right to ask for flexible working. In turn, employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner, although they will still be able to turn them down on business grounds.
Jo Davis, a partner specialising in employment issues at Gerrards Cross-based law firm B P Collins LLP, says: “Carers have previously had the right to request flexible working, but many may have thought they didn’t fall into the necessary category to apply.
“There is a big push towards older people receiving more care in the community and they need to be looked after, which is often done by family members. If you can get the flexible working balance right, then it can be good for everyone because the carer gets the time they need and the employer retains the skills of an experienced employee.”
There are an estimated 6.5 million people – one in eight adults – who are carers, with another 6,000 taking on a caring responsibility every day. Some 58% of carers are women and 42% are men and although an estimated half of them juggle work and care, the demands are such that one in five carers are forced to give up work altogether.
Carers Week is a UK-wide annual awareness campaign which aims to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for.
As the number of older people needing care continues to rise, Giulia Johnson, chief executive of Age UK Bucks, which works in partnership with B P Collins, commented: "We believe that older people deserve to be able to live independently in their own homes in safety and with dignity.
"We offer a range of services which are geared towards helping as many older people in our community stay in their own homes as long as possible. But the main responsibility of long term care is inclined to fall to working adults, particularly women. So we welcome any opportunity which allows more flexible working to help ease the pressure on people with these dual roles."
Under the new law, anyone who has worked for an employer for more than 26 weeks can apply to work flexibly for any purpose, but Jo added: “An employer is there to run a business and make a profit, so employees need to be reasonable and flexible in what they ask for. They should think about how the business could work around the request and, if possible, come up with solutions which would make it far harder for the employer to say no.”
For example, she says, if you want to reduce a five day week to a four day week, it might be quite difficult for an employer to take someone on for only one day. Suggesting you work a three day week and allowing the employer to recruit for someone to fill the other two days, may be a more reasonable alternative.
And she makes the point that flexible working can take many shapes, including flexitime, home working, job sharing or even shift or contract working.