Q- With the school summer holidays approaching one of our clients has received a request from an employee for flexible working over this period. What should they do about this?
A- The school summer holidays can be a difficult time for working parents who are often tasked with having to manage workplace responsibilities and increased childcare commitments for a prolonged period of time. Whilst many choose to take annual leave during the summer months to be at home with their children, this is not always possible. Therefore, it is important that
clients make efforts during this period to balance the needs of their staff with that of the business as a whole.
Clients should be reminded that they do not have to accept requests for flexible working and may refuse these providing there is a valid business reason for doing so, for example, if the requests stand to have a detrimental impact on quality, performance or the company’s ability to meet customer demands. However, clients are advised to carefully consider all requests as a way of outlining their commitment to equality and supporting parents in their organisation.
Common examples of flexible working requests during this time include reduced working hours or a period of home working to allow employees greater opportunity to look after their children. If your client does decide to accept these changes in working arrangements, then it may be appropriate to reflect these amendments in the terms and conditions of the employee’s contract. Alternatively, your client may prefer to come to an informal agreement with relevant staff to accept temporary flexible working conditions for a pre-defined period. In this case a change of contract may be considered excessive and it may be more appropriate to confirm the temporary working provisions by way of a letter.
Whether your client decides to accept or refuse flexible working requests all decisions must be fair and non-discriminatory. If they refuse the request of one employee it is expected they should do the same to another individual making a similar request in the same position. Where initial requests cannot be granted employees should be informed of the reason why. In these situations, it is advisable to work with employees to come to a compromise that is suitable for both parties.
It is important to inform all staff of any temporary working arrangements ahead of time. This affords line managers and colleagues sufficient time to plan and divide any outstanding workplace responsibilities, reducing the potential for unrest amongst those who will remain in work and cover during the school summer holidays.
Clients should consider that allowing a temporary period of flexible working for affected staff is a useful way to avoid troublesome holiday clashes which can occur during the summer months. Additionally, whilst requests can be refused under a number of circumstances, clients should consider how taking a positive approach to flexible working during the school summer holidays can promote a positive company culture and help significantly with retention rates for working parents.