Flexible working in the NHS

Celebrating two years since the NHS Staff Council jointly agreed revisions to flexible working in the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.

13 September 2023

It has been two years since the NHS Staff Council, on behalf of NHS trade unions and employers, jointly agreed revisions to Section 33 of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.

To mark this occasion, we would like your feedback on the flexible working provisions to identify what is working well and where we could support you in embedding a culture of flexible working. Please take a few minutes to complete our survey.

Why the enhancements were introduced

The enhancements were introduced to champion and facilitate a cultural shift, ensuring that flexible working options are accessible to all NHS staff. These measures align with the commitments previously outlined in the NHS People Plan, People Promise and in the recently published Long Term Workforce Plan which outlines improving flexible working options as part of its priority on retention. One of the core commitments in the NHS People Promise is 'we work flexibly', emphasising that individuals should not have to compromise their family, friendships, or personal interests for the sake of work.

Key changes

These provisions encompassed a significant change, granting every employee the contractual right to request flexible working from day one, without any limitations on the number of applications or the reasons behind them. In addition, an escalation stage was introduced, where requests are not agreed, to identify any further options beyond the immediate team. These provisions together help support a cultural shift that enables flexibility in the workplace. The NHS has led the way in taking a proactive approach, surpassing statutory requirements and setting a new standard.

Resources to support employers

These handbook amendments have been positively received and complemented by an extensive suite of resources developed through a collaborative partnership with trade unions and employers. The NHS Staff Council also worked collaboratively with NHS England and Timewise to develop two guides to support NHS line managers and staff to work more flexibly. We remain dedicated to providing continuous access to these invaluable resources and continue our partnership approach.

Over the past two years, our focus has been on the implementation of these contractual changes and the nurturing of a workplace culture that embraces flexible working practices. 

Next steps

Our future plans revolve around furthering the development of a flexible working culture and providing comprehensive support to transition from the implementation phase to a sustained cultural change within the NHS. This will include developing case studies to share good practice examples and demonstrating how this is making a difference within NHS organisations.