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Flexible Hours Shunned by Small Businesses


The cost and burden of the changes are resulting in companies facing the risk of an employment tribunal from staff rather than grant requests for flexible working patterns. The new ruling was introduced 12 months ago and less than 5% of companies have altered their working practices.

Launching the new rules last April Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry Secretary, explained “The new laws will deliver a better deal for working parents and help improve UK productivity.” Under the new laws parents with children under six have legal rights to request flexible working arrangements such as a change to the hours they work, or the times when they commence and finish work. It also includes the viability of working from home. It is not legally binding but the employer has a duty to “seriously consider” the application. The employer can only turn down the request if, for example, there is a significant disruption to business. The reason for rejection must then be put into writing back to the employee.

The employee then has the right to appeal and can ultimately take the employer to tribunal.

The 500 company survey conducted by NOP found that the main reason behind the lack of adoption was simply because the company could not afford to have staff working outside of the office and they feared that they would lose control over them and hence productivity would eventually suffer. A separate NOP survey of over 1000 companies also revealed that over 60% of the companies did not even know about the legislation changes.

Small companies are predominate in the UK with most companies operating on less than 5 staff. Each staff is vital to the production process and operationally efficiency of that company. To lose  potentially 20% of your workforce by one person working form home is understandably difficult for any employer however it does depend on the nature of the job and the professionalism of the individuals involved. In an economic environment where 24 hour access is now available via emails, mobile phones, conference calls and so on flexible working is a valuable tool for the right company that can accommodate the  individuals without efficiency being impaired. In certain cases efficiency can be improved.

Smaller firms should be able to oerate flexible working regulations on an informal basis if required. Any firm is about team performance and when the team is small each player delivers a major part of the total process. Trust is key to success from both employer and employee.

From a personal perspective with three boys under 10, house work, after school activities for the children, grumpy husband (sorry Tim!) etc there is absolutely no way I could perform my job as Project Manager of the LFF without flexible working conditions. I would even go as far as saying that the LFF receives a super deal out of it – I can work more effectively in the early hours of the morning before the manic school rush begins! I can organise work plans for the small but highly effective team at LFF plus think creatively about the next projects and initiatives.

As with everything in life – it’s horses for courses.

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