6 vital things to consider in your flexible working policy

8 min read  |   6 February, 2024   By Laura Sands

A woman in a wheelchair sits at her desk, working remotely from home.

Flexible working - it’s certainly in demand. And with it's stress-busting benefits and increased work-life balance, new research reveals it can even reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Along with this major health benefit, it can certainly do wonders for your team - a study by ACAS showed flexible working improved personal and team effectiveness and reduced work-related stress.

A typical flexi-working employee is proven to be more productive, better engaged and less likely to take sick leave.

But flexible working can only transform your business for the better if you manage it carefully - and for that you need a flexible working policy.

In this article we'll be delving into what a flexible working policy is, along with 6 important things you should include in one. 


Jump to:

What is a flexible working policy?

What is an example of a flexitime policy?

What are the new flexible working rules?

6 important things to include in a flexible working policy


What is a flexible working policy?

A flexible working policy is a document that establishes the way your business approaches flexible working.

It should provide clear guidance on the flexible working patterns you support and give the whole business identical information and expectations.

Flexible working policies vary from business to business; what’s right for you may not be an option for other organisations.

You need to adapt your flexible working policy to support the way you want your business to operate.

Keep in mind that as of April 2024, employees can make flexible working requests from day one of a first day of a new job. They can also make 2 formal flexible working requests within 12 months, and the onus is on employers to accept flexible working requests, rather than decline. 


What is an example of a flexitime policy? 

There are many different examples of flexible working, as it covers a broad spectrum of options. Hybrid or remote working can be considered flexible working, as can job-sharing and offering employees different working hours, or compressed hours.

Examples of flexible working hours include allowing staff to have flexible times that they start and finish work, outside of the traditional 9am-5pm with an hour's lunch break. You might allow starting earlier, e.g. at 8am, and finishing at 4pm. You could allow a later start and finish, e.g. 10am-6pm. You might offer employees to condense lunch breaks to 30 minutes, and finish work 30 minutes earlier. 

Some businesses offer compressed hours, for example, working longer days to compress a 5-day week into 4 days. Some organisations run a 9-day fortnight option, meaning that every other week is a 4-day week, with working hours compressed to accommodate this. There are many different options for businesses and employees to work more flexibly - it's all about what works for you. 


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What are the new flexible working rules?

Legally, as of April 2024, employees in the UK have the right to request flexible working from the first day of employment. 

But, as an employer you have the right to reject flexible working requests if accommodating them would damage your business. Within the new flexible working bill, there's, just more to consider around how you (as an employer) can accommodate the flexible working request, rather than why it won't work. 


6 important things to include in a flexible working policy

So what needs to be included? Let's take a look at some key components of a successful flexible working policy:


1. The kinds of flexible working you support

You should be clear about the flexible options available to your employees. For example, you might offer:

2. How you're putting your people first

For the sake of a better workplace culture, it makes sense to find a solution that works for the business and your people. 

You must also be concrete in defining in which roles are (and are not) open for flexible working. Think about the impact of flexible working on the nature of the worker's role and how it might affect the team dynamic or customer satisfaction.  

But there is a word of caution: a ban on flexible working for some roles can create an atmosphere of resentment.

It can also affect talent mobility in your organisation and affect your employer PR - neither of which support your long-term performance.

What’s more, limiting flexible working to lower-skilled or support roles will affect your gender pay gap; leaving you with an unequal workforce and potential criticism from 3rd parties.


3. A clear procedure for submitting a request

Make sure it's super-simple for your people to request flexible working.

Storing any relevant documentation centrally can help here, meaning it can be accessed at any time and from any place. 

Train managers on this process too, so that they're able to feed information down to their teams and support them should they wish to request flexible working.


4. A clear procedure for approval or rejection

There’s a chance you’ll get flexible working requests you can't approve, for business reasons. 

Nip problems in the bud by including a clear procedure for rejection in your flexible working policy and include the reasons that would cause a rejection.

This transparency will help avoid upset, resentment and low morale. Be aware of the new laws around rejecting flexible working requests - ACAS offers guidance for employers on responding to flexible working requests. 


5. Your expectations as an employer

You’ll need to make sure that employees who work flexibly understand the expectations of you and the wider business.

With a strong culture and solid hiring strategy, you should find your employees are motivated enough to work flexibly without the need for detailed expectations, but it’s helpful for you to clarify.

For example:

  • Remote workers are expected to respond to phone calls during their working hours and check in with emails at least twice each day.

  • Employees who work compressed hours are expected to complete their tasks to a mutually agreed standard.

  • Term time-only employees must complete their workload before departing for school holidays.

  • Part-time employees must make sure all team members are aware of their reduced hours through email signatures, instant messenger status and out-of-office notifications.

Remember that as their employer, you also have a part to play. Don’t place pressure on employees to stay late at the office on days they’re due to finish early, and don’t expect them to attend meetings on days they’re out of the office.


6. How you’ll implement new flexible working arrangements

If your business is new to flexible working, you may wish to include a trial period in your flexible working policy.

This will give the employee, their manager and the business the opportunity to implement and get used to the new flexible working arrangement.

Once the trial is up, you’ll need to include details of how you will amend your employee’s employment contract. Will it be a permanent change or one that’s reviewed on an annual basis?


A fair flexible working policy for your SME

It’s wise to ensure the process for implementing and reviewing flexible working is the same for all employees. This will help prevent concerns about unfair treatment and will give all employees the confidence in the transparency of your flexible working policy.

Store flexible working locations and book places in the office with Breathe's location management feature. 


Author: Laura Sands

Laura is a writer who enjoys getting into the detail of subjects and sharing that knowledge with snappy, interesting content. When not typing away, she enjoys walks in the woods and curling up with a good book and mug of something hot.

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