Flexible working

Post its

Studies have demonstrated the importance of flexible working arrangements for older workers. People choose to work fewer hours or fixed working patterns to allow themselves to take on caring responsibilities in the family, to pursue voluntary or leisure activities, or simply to make work more manageable.

This section includes key points to consider, actions to take forward and links to useful information and resources.

Key points 
  • Flexible working is not just about part-time working. It can include, but is not limited to, job content, variety and patterns of work, location, start and finish times etc.
  • You have a legal right to request flexible working, regardless of whether you are a parent or not.
  • Employers have to consider all applications for flexible working seriously.  There is a prescribed list of reasons why they can turn down a request, including the burden of additional costs, an inability to reorganise work among existing staff and a detrimental impact on quality.  
  • Early discussion with your line manager and colleagues may be useful when formulating a request to change your working arrangements.
  • Flexible working does not need to be a permanent change to your contract. It could be a temporary measure to help you work around a particular personal/domestic situation, for example, a partner’s ill health. 
  • If you are not sure whether a new working arrangement will be right for you, you can ask to have a trial period.  During this trial you will have to opportunity to test whether the working arrangements are suitable and deal with any problems that may arise.
  • Some managers think that employing lots of part–time staff or job sharers is too time consuming, but it can bring many benefits. Staff often feel more committed and energised when they have achieved the work/life balance they need, and this has been demonstrated to have links to quality outcomes for patients including lower mortality and greater patient satisfaction. 
Key actions
  • Check your internal policies and processes to see what commitment your organisation is giving to providing flexible working opportunities.
  • Discuss your needs with your manager at as early an opportunity as possible – don’t let your request come as a surprise.
  • Be aware that legally you can only make one request every 12 months, so make sure that when you do make a request it is a strong one.
  • Speak to your local trade union representative for advice and support.
For trade union representatives
Make sure that decisions are monitored taking account of the age profile of the workforce. For example which staff have been given continuing professional development opportunities or which staff have had flexible working requests agreed. 

Useful information and resources
NHS Terms and Conditions Handbook section 34: Flexible working arrangements
NHS Terms and Conditions Handbook section 35: Balancing work and personal life
Flexible working: FAQs from NHS Employers
The right to request flexible working: Information on ACAS
Flexible working: Information on gov.uk 

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