Small Business Blog

Practical advice for startups, small and growing businesses. Interviews, features, opinion and commentary from journalists, bloggers and entrepreneurs who know what matters to SMEs.

RECENT SME BLOG POSTS

There’s Nothing to Fear in the New Flexible Working Rules

A few weeks have passed since the law surrounding flexible working changed, but has anything much changed for small businesses?

By
24th July 2014 at 10:39 pm

A few weeks have passed since the law surrounding flexible working changed, and you might have noticed that the business world has not collapsed into a smouldering heap. The law change went largely unreported outside HR circles prior to the change, but there was a flurry of media exposure on the day. It might have come as something of a surprise to business owners who pay more attention to meeting deadlines than to the ins and outs of employment law.

What was interesting was the tone of the reporting – and in some cases, the facts. Unless you were listening very carefully you might have thought that suddenly all employees were suddenly entitled to flexible working and all they had to do was ask their bosses. Respondents to radio phone-ins – some of whom purported to be business owners themselves – expressed concern about what this could do to their businesses.

But while their worry might have been justified, the background to it was not – because the change meant nothing of the sort. It was merely a recalibration of a law that seemed to be biased towards parents and carers. Any hint of a threat to a business’s operations caused by flexible working would have resulted in the request being turned down – just as had always been the case. Nonetheless, it’s worth briefly covering the history of the flexible working rules to see where we currently stand.

An Evolving Law
The Employment Rights Act 1996 was amended in 2003 to give some assistance to parents that might help them back to work or to discourage them from quitting work and falling into the benefits trap. In short, employees had the right to request certain changes to their work pattern, be they hours, days, location or a combination of these and other factors. In 2007, the Act was amended to give anyone caring for adults the same right.

But “request” is the operative word here. An employer is under no obligation to grant a request if it is considered that the change would have a detrimental impact on the operation of the business. One request can be made every 12 months.

The only thing to change on 30 June 2014 was that the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service for the employer. Caring for children or adults is no longer a precondition.

For a gauge to the impact of the change, several advisors from Peninsula Business Services (a company to whom SMEs outsources their HR) were asked to give their views on how the flexible working rules as they stood had affected the businesses they deal with. The results are covered in this white paper (which also goes into much greater detail about the law, and is well worth a read).

The conclusions were, on the whole, encouraging for business owners. With every request required to pass the “detrimental effect” test – and with most types of flexible working having at least some undesirable effect – the default has been to reject.

Embracing the Changes
While differences between limited and full availability can’t be ignored, it does seem that the effects on companies have been minimal. Indeed, flexibility requests have led some employers to question their own nine-to-five mindset and conclude that offering flexibility could actually be to their advantage, not only in terms of employee wellbeing but also in raw operational effectiveness. Show us a freelancer or self-employed person who rigidly works nine-to-five, Monday to Friday – when you’re starting out, you’re reactive, flexible and eager, but as soon as employees enter the equation there’s a pressure to conform. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Far from being something to fear, flexibility might actually be a springboard to opportunity, a can-do attitude residing in the more creative parts of the mind. Whether you use it or not, the change in the law is nothing to be worried about.

5 Easy Steps to a Happier Office Workforce

It’s important to do what you can to maintain staff morale in your workforce. Just follow our 5 easy steps towards a happier team and you’ll reap the benefits sooner than you may think.

By 6th May 2014 at 10:34 pm | Read more ...

Tempted to Work from Home? The Pleasures and the Pitfalls

If you’re considering making your home a base for your business or your primary place of work, don’t forget to factor in the possible pitfalls.

By 11th January 2014 at 11:38 am | Read more ...

Growing Your Business: Where Should You Start?

When you are starting to think about growing your business and hiring staff to help you manage your daily tasks as you take on more clients, which department should you focus on growing first?

By 7th January 2014 at 1:05 am | Read more ...

Confidence To Go For Growth

As 2013 comes to an end, is there a spring in the step of small business owners, or are they struggling to find their feet in this cautious economic climate?

By 1st December 2013 at 8:53 pm | Read more ...

Recent Comments

  • Jess Green: Great post. I’m currently working on my plan for the 2nd half of 2012 and start of 2013. Dee...
  • James Coakes: Our research indicates that while most business that have needed finance have a business plan less than...
  • Andrew McMaster: I think this is a fantastic idea. It is good to see companies such as Orange offering this and...
  • Yeast: Interesting article – just one hitch with Truecrypt – you need to have admin rights on the...
  • Jordan Erickson: I think that some people have found the best way to make money off of users. It is a concept that...
  • business expert: great idea and we do get promotional items from time to time.
  • Oliver Cromwell: I agree 100% – the media needs to be held to account just as much as the politicians. Invest...

Photostream

Partners

Small Business Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Listen to the sales podcast for SMEs Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

PARTNER PROMOTIONS

If looking to boost your businesses performance with promotional marketing, travel incentives or incentive schemes get it touch with NDL Group