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30 January 2014

How flexible is flexible working?

Marcus is keen to introduce flexible working at his IT company, which will mean introducing the idea of home and teleworking to his staff, and allowing them to hotdesk.

How can he make the transition to flexible working smooth and make sure all of his staff are kept happy? Employment law senior associate, Kathryn Fielder, explains...

In theory, flexible working is a great idea and incentive for the workplace, however there are a number of considerations that Marcus must think about before he introduces it.

Firstly, one of the most important factors to consider is whether or not he has the contractual right to implement flexible working. You can’t force anybody to take on flexible working unless it is in their contract. This may not be an issue if everyone is happy to work from home, however it is a vital consideration. If he doesn’t have the right, he may need to review the contract – in which case he would need to go through a full consultation with a good business reason to do so.

The main point of consideration for Marcus is how he is going to implement flexible working within his company. He needs to decide whether it is going to be a universal right to anyone who works there, or whether he is going to include specific criteria that an employee must meet. This could be the basic statutory criteria, which entitles individuals to apply for flexible working if they have worked there for twenty-six weeks and are a principle carer for a child or an adult.

Or alternatively, Marcus may choose to introduce his own criteria for application, to specify who is entitled to flexible working. This is not without its difficulties, as it can introduce blurred lines as to individual cases and who is eligible for this application. It’s important he does not give employees less than their statutory rights.

Logistically, flexible working lends itself perfectly to Marcus’s IT Company as opposed to other industries which might face a number of dilemmas when implementing flexible working. Working from home and hot-desking tends to work much more effectively when people are using computers and phones as opposed to those sectors that require employees to meet clients and be out on the road.

However, one thing flexible working can affect is situations where people may need to work in teams. Ultimately this will be an issue if people are based in various different locations where there are no central places to arrange team meetings.

Trust outside of the workplace is also crucial to the success of flexible working. Marcus needs to be able to trust his workforce to work without supervision. He may also need to consider that some employees might need some kind of support from their line manager, which is going to be difficult if they are not geographically available.

Equipment, health and safety, confidentiality and insurance are also important considerations for Marcus before introducing flexible working.

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