Back to school & flexible working, it’s not only about the kids

by | Sep 26, 2019 | News

Summer’s out for school.

The office is fuller again.

Everybody’s work-life balance is returning to normality. The holiday requests and unexpected time off for dependents has slowed a little.

With the start of the new school year you may have found that the number of applications for a change in working hours have increased.

Parents may want to start finishing earlier so that their kids don’t need a childminder.

Employees may want to reduce their working week, to positively impact their work-life balance.

Some may find that mentally, they would benefit from a newly-constructed week.

It’s not just flexible requests for childcare that can be submitted either. From June 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks service can submit an application for flexible working – for any reason.

It is your duty as an employer to address these queries in a fair and reasonable manner, whilst also being pragmatic about the impact the changes may have on your company.

The balance, can be hard to find.

Quickly, lets understand what ‘flexible working’ is.


It can be:

  • Flexi-time: Choosing when to work
  • Part-time: Working less than ‘normal’ hours
  • Annual hours: Working a set amount over the course of a year
  • Compressed hours: Working agreed hours over fewer days
  • Staggered hours: Working different hours to others (perhaps starting earlier, finishing earlier)

There are more options (working from home for example) but these are some of the basics you should definitely be aware of.

So what can you do to ensure that shaking up work patterns doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the office?

#1 – Treat everyone equally

Consider the reasoning behind everyone’s desire to change hours – not just parents or carers.

Compromise can be found, but by having a flexible working policy in place allows an open discussion between employee and employer.

You don’t want to upset the way your business runs on a day-today basis, but by giving a little here and there, you can keep everybody happy.

#2 – Grant flexibility, with accountability

A worry many managers have when granting a drastic change to working hours, is a drop in productivity. Therefore, allow people their flexible hours, so long as they are hitting the same deadlines and targets as they were previously. You’re well within your rights to expect such.

Should anyone start to fall short of expectations, you can deal with this via your usual management procedures (performance and capability), and even allow a trial period of hours whereby you can return them to their normal schedule if it is not working.

Allowing people their flexible hours will have a positive impact on health and well-being. The targets and productivity need not change and if anything you may find staff are more productive working for a flexible, reasonable employer.

#3 – Don’t be forced

You can reject a request to change employment hours, but you must reject it on fair and business grounds.

There are 3 key things that you must be sure to do:

  • Give your answer within three months of the request
  • Give a permitted reason
  • Give a factually correct reason

The legislation does not give employees the right to work flexibly. Instead it provides a right to request flexible working.

So if somebody at your company has recently requested a change to their agreed employment hours and you’re not sure how to handle it, give us a call.

As we had recently come up against some difficult staffing issues which we had not experienced before, Ellen Parkin at Spire HR was recommended to us by one of our business partners to guide and assist us with the complex HR legalities we needed to adhere to.

Ellen was very efficient and professional and gave us instant confidence that she would be able to competently provide the help we needed. Ellen was readily accessible via email or telephone throughout the whole process and gave us the vital lifeline we needed during a very emotive and stressful time. Spire HR realised that as an SME, we had to balance the commercial viability for HR consultancy with the expertise and guidance we needed and Ellen was open and honest from the outset, providing a cost-effective and professional service. I would therefore have no hesitation in recommending Spire HR to anyone.


We are too small to justify a full-time HR employee; yet we cannot afford to ‘get it wrong’ The excellent service offered by Spire HR Solutions is the perfect solution for us


AGP have used Spire HR Solutions Limited for numerous matters relating to HR issues for both ourselves and clients of the practice. I have always found them to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful and to be very responsive to our needs.

Spire is now the practice’s first point of contact for any HR issues we encounter and I would certainly recommend them to anyone in need of assistance with any HR matters.


Ellen has helped streamline procedures and provide greater controls through her extensive knowledge and professional dedication, which has enabled me to concentrate on my main objective, growing the business.

I would say ‘key’ to her service is the confidence she provides with the HR guidance, I know without doubt that when dealing with my employees I follow the correct procedure and staff feel confident that they have the right HR support. The guidance on our bonus structure and appraisal scheme is one of many examples in which Ellen’s guidance has been invaluable.

I have been pleased with work Ellen has done for us and would not hesitate to recommend her to others. She provides a high quality, professional service and is very responsive to the needs of a small, growing organisation.