We hear a lot about flexible working initiatives these days but they normally consists of either granting a part-time work pattern and/or allowing working from home. However, some companies are taking things one step further with more inventive offerings, such as a 6 to 12 week period off work (taken either in a block or in separate weeks), work patterns centred around school terms (so perhaps full-time during term time and part-time in the holidays) as well as permitting temporary changes to the individual's normal hours of work for up to 3 months, simply to allow them a break from work to recharge or do something different for a while. 

From a legal point of view, employers undertaking flexible working initiatives should consider the following: 

  • Think about whether it is appropriate for a formal flexible working policy to be introduced or, if you already have a policy in place, consider whether it is up to date; 
  • Ensure that individual arrangements are clearly documented so that there is no misunderstanding about what has been agreed; 
  • Consider a trial period if you are unsure that the proposed arrangement will work; 
  • Remember that employees with at least 26 weeks service have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements (although there is no right to have such a request granted, but it can only lawfully be rejected on limited grounds); and 
  • Be mindful of discrimination allegations when handling requests, for example sex discrimination if the request is made by a female employee who has childcare responsibilities or religion discrimination where the request is made for reasons connected to religious observance.