Flexible working - the business case

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13 / 8 / 2010 9.23am

Women comprise more than 70 per cent of the NHS workforce and this figure is rising - many of them are parents (some are single parents), and overall there are more people at work who have carer responsibilities.

The workforce is ageing; responsibilities for older people are increasing. More and more men are taking on equal carer responsibilities. The demand for more flexible working patterns is on the increase as a consequence.

Whilst some employers have not always recognised the need to tackle long working hours; flexible working practices have been adopted with widespread success across most professions in the NHS.

Benefits in terms of retention, productivity and improved morale are significant. Being flexible about the way people work, supporting and looking after the welfare of the workforce means that employees are more likely to stay with their employers and return after a spell away - thus reducing the costs associated with the recruitment process, as well as retaining valuable skills and experience. These practices are backed up by employment legislation including the Employment Relations Act (Amendment 2005), the Employment Act 2002: Flexible Working, and the Work & Families Act 2006.

Not only does flexible working open up opportunities for parents and people with carer responsibilities but it may be relevant to many other people in the workforce at various stages of their working life. Employees may prefer different working patterns for reasons such as further education, voluntary work or other interests outside the workplace.

Update on extended working rights to apply for flexible working

New extended rights to request flexible working to parents who have children up to and including the age of 16 come into force on 6 April 2009. For more information.


The UK workforce is now more diverse than ever before, reflecting changes in society and the make up of the population so NHS organisations were required to demonstrate that:

  • flexible working is making a difference to service delivery through greater access to services and improvements in staffing levels
  • career progression is not hindered by work/life balance choices and flexible working patterns
  • managers at all levels enable their staff, including doctors, to work in ways that meet their personal needs, and the needs of the service, at different times of their careers, and structures are in place to support flexible working practices
  • attitudes and behaviour of managers and staff, as individuals and as teams, promote and support flexible working
  • flexible careers are established across all staff grades, including GPs, to support service delivery
  • staff approaching retirement age are informed about the options to take up flexible working patterns/flexible retirement and are encouraged and supported.
Types of flexible working

Flexible working options may include, but are not exclusive to, the following:

Part-time working

Term-time working


Annualised hours

Staggered hours

V-time working

Compressed hours

Career breaks or sabbaticals

Job sharing

Remote (Home) working

Shift working

Phased return to work

Flexible retirement and “keep in touch” schemes

More information about these options from our A-Z pages

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