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.
Accountancy firm Ernst & Young hopes that staff will take ‘life leave’, which is self-funded, to travel, work part-time or simply just enjoy the time off in one of two blocks of time across a year. Other new incentives include term-time working and temporary part-time, which will all go into effect from April 1 2019. EY Oceania’s People Partner Kate Hillman said: “Flexible work policies like this are necessary because of increased competition for talent,” the Independent reported.