The rise of flexible working

Posted on 2nd October 2019

On 16th July 2019, the BBC reported on conservative MP Helen Whately who introduced a flexible working bill in Parliament. I was a little surprised to read this as there is already the right to request flexible working within the UK. Currently employees with continuous 26 weeks service, who have not previously made a request in the preceding 12 months, have the right to request to work flexibly. Employers must consider the request but there is no statutory obligation to grant the request.

Helen Whately MP argued that flexible working should be the default position in the world of work. Compared with the standard working week of 40 hours, which was established during a different era, with men expected to be the breadwinner and married women staying at home. As a working mother I am also aware that part time senior roles, that provide parents with the opportunity to utilise their skills and experience, whilst paying a relevant salary are rarer than rocking horse poop.

Whilst I suspect that this proposal might see a move towards removing the current criteria to qualify to make a flexible working request, what we really need is a shift in attitude to work. We have already seen a rise in coffee shops across the UK. Is this just because we have reignited a passion for caffeine? I am not convinced. What I do note, is the amount of coffee shop customers, with an electronic device completing some form of work task. The coffee is a means to access free Wi-Fi, a power source and a comfortable working space.

The invention of the smart phone has ensured that many tasks can be completed anywhere with appropriate Wi-Fi coverage. (Unfortunately, this does have the negative effect of never truly being away from work and insomniacs sending messages at 3am).

We currently find ourselves in a period of high employment. Attracting candidates and persuading them to leave a secure role is a challenge. Many candidates are seeking a flexible way of working not just to juggle family commitments, but to regain a healthy balance between work and rest. (Previously I received a flexible working request from a keen gardener, that wanted time to tend his allotment).

There are clear benefits to employers, with the ability to tap into sectors of a potential workforce that would often be overlooked. Or indeed sectors of the workforce that due to changes in personal circumstances might need flexible working options, to assist them to remain in employment. Many individuals are forced out of the workforce due to family or other commitments. Others may accept roles that are flexible, but do not utilise their education, experience or skills.

There are a variety of flexible ways of working, not just part time hours. These could be;

  • Job-sharing
  • Working from home remotely
  • Part-time
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexitime
  • Annualised hours
  • Staggered hours
  • Phased retirement

With the introduction of new technologies many roles can be completed flexibly. Surely the focus should be on the work being completed to the standard required, not where the work was done?

If you would like to discuss flexible working or any other HR queries please feel free to call us on 01536 215240 or email

Gwyneth Hodgkinson Character
Written by:
Gwyneth Hodgkinson
HR Development Consultant