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Why you don’t need to be scared of new flexible working rules

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This has been hailed by politicians and trade unions, as well as providers of remote working software, but does it present a new burden for businesses?

Although workers do have a right to request flexible work, you’re not obliged to say yes. Guidelines permit that you can deny your workers’ request if there is a demonstrable business reason to say no.

Clearly it’s not viable for those in face-to-face customer oritentated roles to work from home, but you can say no to office staff as well.

Acas provides the following guidelines as reasons to deny a request:

  • the burden of additional costs 
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff 
  • an inability to recruit additional staff 
  • a detrimental impact on quality 
  • a detrimental impact on performance 
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand 
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work 
  • a planned structural change to the business

Christian Laang, CEO of Tradeshift, says: “It’s great to see the UK implementing a flexible working law; however, employers still have the power to refuse a request. And understandably, some will. 

“It can be daunting for those who haven’t instilled such a policy in the workplace – unoccupied desks can make management feel out of control and they may question how hard their employees are working.”

Besides which, allowing your staff to work flexibly can be of substantial benefit. Given the cost and inconvenience of having to commute, allowing remote working can be a great way to retain and motivate staff without having to pay them more. 

Businesses have reported benefits to their firms in allowing staff to adopt more flexible working practices. This includes more than half reporting an improvement in their relationship with their employees and staff motivation, 40 per cent reporting a boost in productivity and 38 per cent seeing a drop in staff absence.

Laang adds: “Getting the job done is what fundamentally matters. Businesses should trust their employees to get their workload done in the way that best works for them, which can be incredibly motivating and morale boosting for both.

“This is what I’ve learnt from my own businesses. So, my advice: Rather than setting a number of hours, set targets which represent the creation of value for the business.”

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