More and more businesses are now considering whether flexible working is a good fit for them.

Employees have a right in law to ask for flexible working like home working, job sharing, reduced hours, flexitime, or a temporary contract.

For employees, it could be an excellent way of improving their work-life balance and working around family commitments.

What the law says

As an employer, you have to consider requests for flexible working from your employees with more than 26 weeks’ service.

The law says:

  • Your employees have to make requests in writing stating the date, whether there’s been a previous application, and the date of that previous application, and flexibility they’re requesting.
  • You have to decide on requests and any appeals within three months of getting the requests.
  • You have to have a sound business reason if you want to reject them.
  • Your employees can only make one request each in a 12-month period.

What would be good business reasons for refusing a request?

You need to ask:

  • Would there be additional costs?
  • Would you be able to reorganise the work for the rest of your staff?
  • Would you be able to recruit extra staff?
  • Would it reduce the quality of your product or service?
  • Would it have a detrimental impact on your business’ performance?
  • Would you still be able to meet customer demand?
  • Would there be enough work for when your employee wants to work?
  • What would the impact be of planned structural changes to the business?

There could be good business reasons for agreeing to a request.

Flexible working may allow you to retain or recruit qualified staff who are looking to ensure a good work-life balance.

A number of people leave the corporate environment because they feel it is too inflexible and believe it doesn’t meet their needs. It could expand your talent pool.

Flexible working can improve your employees’ satisfaction with their jobs. Employees who are happy in their jobs are likely to be more productive than those who are not.

A survey by Avaya found that home workers saved the equivalent of 39 working days a year by not commuting, and a fifth of that was spent doing extra work.

Home working or hot desking could also reduce your office costs and – if employees are based closer to some customers – the cost of employee expenses.

If your employees are sitting at the same desk all day, you could provide them with desktop computers and allow them to work using their own home broadband.

There are also plenty of collaborative apps which you could use to share work.

Home working employees don’t have to pay for travel and lunch – and that can add up to saving hundreds of pounds every month. That extra disposable income will boost morale.

Allowing your staff to work flexibly could also prove a boon when it comes to business continuity.

Forget the idea of shutting down operations on days when there is a heavy snowfall, a major crash on an arterial route, or a fire or flooding in the office.

If you have staff working remotely from home, business can go on whatever the weather and your staff remain safe.

So while flexible working might not be a good fit for every business, it may be time to give it serious consideration for your business.

Find out more about what the law says from arbitration service Acas.

Have you decided to allow flexible working in your business? Tell us why below.