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Flexible working refers to arrangements where employees have more control over where, when, and how they work. For example, because they want to spend more time working at home and less time in the office perhaps, or change their hours.

With more of us working remotely, many employees are finding flexible working to be a much better way of managing their working life and home life, often boosting balance and productivity.

In this article we’ll look at what flexible working is, your own responsibilities and how you can best make it work as an employer.

Why is it worth offering flexible work to my employees?

Offering flexible working arrangements to anyone who works for you can really increase job satisfaction and productivity and encourage people to stay. Getting the right work/life balance in terms of the hours and working location you offer can really improve wellbeing and also means your team are less likely to suffer from stress and burnout.

Flexible working is not just good for employees though. It’s actually great for employers too, helping you to recruit the best candidates from a wider talent pool, including individuals with caregiving responsibilities or those looking for a better work-life balance.

Additionally, flexible working can help you save money through reduced absenteeism, lower turnover costs, and improved employee morale. Basically, a happier, healthier, more productive workforce!

What are the different types of flexible working?

Flexible working can mean lots of different things and will vary depending on the needs of the individual, their job role, and the needs of the wider business.

  • Some employees may want to work part-time
  • Flexitime sees employees work all their hours, but they can choose their start and finish times
  • Compressed hours, where full-time hours are condensed into fewer days
  • Job sharing, where responsibilities and hours are split between two or more employees
  • Remote working, where the employee works from home or in a location that isn’t the office

No two employees are likely to have the same home/work set up or the same needs – it’s about finding the right, fair balance that works.
 

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What are the rules around flexible working?

The government has set out certain rules and guidelines that you as an employer need to know about when it comes to flexible working arrangements. They can be found on the Gov.uk website.

In brief, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working, no matter what role in the business they have. This doesn’t mean you have to automatically give them what they want, but they absolutely have the legal right to ask.

So, as we’ve already mentioned, an employee might want to change the number of hours they work, their start/finish times, where they work or how many days they work. They are perfectly entitled to ask for that.

At the moment, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. From 6th April 2024, employees can ask for flexible working from the day they start the job.

As an employer, how should I handle flexible working?

The whole point here is that you need to make sure you’re fair and handle things in a ‘reasonable manner’. If an employee has made a flexible working request, you legally need to properly assess the advantages and disadvantages of what they’re asking for. You should then discuss the request with the employee during a meeting, and afterwards offer an appeals process if needed.

A good way of handling flexible working requests in general is to make sure you have clear policies and procedures in place that outline:

  • Eligibility criteria
  • The process for requesting flexibility
  • How requests will be considered

Encourage open communication to minimise misunderstandings – the last thing you want is an employee to feel they can’t come to you and speak openly.

Any flexible working requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis. You’ll need to think about things like job requirements, performance, team dynamics and fairness across the workforce. Offering training and support for managers to effectively manage remote or flexible teams helps with a culture of trust, accountability, and productivity.

It’s also a good idea to regularly review and adapt your policies based on feedback so that you can stay responsive to the needs of both your employees and your business.

What expenses/allowances can an employee claim if they work from home?

Employees who work from home can claim certain expenses and allowances that can help them offset the costs of working remotely. These generally include expenses related to utilities like heating, electricity, and water, as well as a portion of rent or mortgage interest, as long as the employee’s home is their primary workplace.

Additionally, employees may be able to claim expenses for office supplies like stationery, printer ink and computer equipment that they need to do their work. These claims need to be reasonable and directly relate to the work your employee is doing.

Calculating home-working expenses

HMRC offers simplified methods for calculating business expenses, like flat-rate allowance or a fixed rate per hour worked from home. This makes it much easier for both employees and employers to work out what can be reimbursed or claimed.

It’s really important for employees to keep accurate records of their expenses and to make sure that they’re not claiming for items that you as their employer have already reimbursed them for. Make sure you give employees clear guidance about what expenses are eligible for reimbursement to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.

 
Learn more about our online accounting services for businesses. Call 020 3355 4047 to chat to the team, and get an instant online quote.

About The Author

Suzanne Goodier-Dodson

I'm a Senior Payroll Clerk with a degree in Mathematics, responsible for overseeing every aspect of payroll for our clients. In my spare time, I love to travel and going to gigs. Read my Staff Spotlight.

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