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Use this page to understand your responsibilities around flexible working and learn how to build a flexible working culture.
Flexible working is a way of working to suit an individual’s preferred:
It can also help people fit work around important life events – for example, a career break (sabbatical), or shared parental leave.
Flexible working acknowledges that everyone works differently. For example, some people might find working from home isolating, while others might find it helps them focus or juggle other responsibilities, like childcare.
Because of this, flexible working can promote:
All employees have the legal (statutory) right to request flexible working if they have:
The ‘right to request’ is the not the same as the right to flexible working, but employers must consider all requests.
Once you’ve received a request in writing, you should:
You can only turn down a flexible working request if there’s a valid business reason for doing so. It’s important to consider each flexible working request on its own merit and in the order you receive it. However, if you’ve agreed to a flexible working request from one employee, you’re not obliged to agree to a similar request from another.
If you’re not sure whether the requested flexible working will work in practice, one option is to agree to it for a temporary period.
Remember: if you approve your employee’s request, this will usually change the terms of their employment contract. If this happens, you should send your employee a letter setting out the changes to their contract.
It can be helpful to write down your organisation’s approach to flexible working (your policy) and how you handle requests (the procedure you’ll follow).
NCVO members can download our editable sample flexible working policy and procedure.
Many employees have been temporarily working from home during the covid-19 pandemic. If you’re considering making these arrangements more formal, a separate policy might help you do this.
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Employers are responsible for their employees' physical and mental health, safety, and wellbeing:
This means that regardless of where your employees work, you should:
The Health and Safety Executive has more guidance on an employer’s responsibilities when managing health and safety risks.
Employees also have a responsibility for taking reasonable care of their own health and safety at work. It’s important for managers and the people they manage to communicate regularly and work together to find solutions to any difficulties.
Changes in working environment – including working from home – can be stressful. For help supporting staff wellbeing, read our guidance on managing stress.
When working flexibly, healthy boundaries are important to ensure staff don’t overwork. Both organisations and individuals need to understand that it’s ok to say ‘no’, to set boundaries, and to suggest different approaches to how flexibility can work.
Organisations providing services will need to balance the needs of both the people providing and receiving the service.
Employers should lead by example, and encourage staff to:
Read our guidance on mental health and wellbeing.
Building a productive flexible working culture takes time and is not always easy. Here are five things to bear in mind:
Policies and procedures that incorporate flexible working will only go so far. Flexible working requires everyone to be proactive in building relationships and open to connect with each other in different ways.
Accept that building these relationships will take time and that with some individuals it will take longer than others. In your conversations with staff, encourage a focus on outcomes and impact rather than hours worked.
Leaders can send a strong message when they:
It shows everyone in the organisation that this is how business is done. And it gives others the confidence to make a request and do the same.
To build a productive flexible working culture, you’ll need to have conversations about wellbeing regularly. Wellbeing considerations may be very different depending on role, circumstance, and life stage.
The nature of ‘presenteeism’ has also changed. There’s now ‘digital presenteeism’ where employees feel the pressure to always be available online.
Read Shine Offline's blog on minimising digital presenteeism when working flexibly.
Give managers the tools, skills, and confidence to understand what flexible working means for those they manage. Managers should be able to listen to the experiences and needs of those they manage and understand different working preferences.
They must also understand and be able to translate any flexible working policy and procedures into practice.
Think about how you can be inclusive and connected online and in person. If you’re only coming together as a whole organisation once or twice a year, talk to staff about how you can make this meaningful for all involved.
Last reviewed: 01 August 2022Help us improve this content
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