Flexible working

August 18, 2014, by Kelly Cookson

Flexible working for SMEs

Millions of employees now have the right to request flexible working. The new law which came into force on 30th June 2014 entitles any employee with 26 weeks’ service to ask for a range of flexible options, including compressed hours, 4-day weeks, working from home and job shares. In the July 2014 Business Barometer survey, our panel of UK small business owners and business advisers were asked about their experience of flexible working hours for employees.

The responses from small business owners were as follows:

Did you offer flexible working for your employees before the changes on 30th June 2014 came into effect? 
Yes 52.9%
No 30.9%
Not applicable 16.2%


If no, how likely are you to approve flexible working for your employees? 
Highly likely 9.3%
Likely 24.1%
Unlikely 25.9%
Highly unlikely 16.7%
Not applicable 24.1%


If yes, would you recommend flexible working to other small business owners? 
Yes 55.6%
No 19%
Not applicable 25.4%

One panellist, said: “In an office, flexible working can spread opening times, allow employees to avoid traffic or continue working while dealing with family problems. In a factory where machines must be manned, flexible working causes inefficient working by either reducing machine hours or requiring extra people to do the same job. Refusal produces motivation and discipline issues.”

Another panellist commented: “Most very small businesses only employ sufficient people to run the business efficiently. Agreeing to flexible arrangements may mean trying to take on additional staff on very small contracts which may not prove an efficient method of working. One thought I have been toying with is to keep the same number of staff but offer increased working to other employees.

UK business advisers were asked about their clients’ experience of flexible working:

What proportion of the businesses that you advise offered flexible working for their employees before the changes on 30th June 2014 came into effect? 
All 5.3%
More than half 6.6%
Approximately half 11.8%
Less than half 43.4%
None 10.5%
Don’t know 22.4%


If they did not offer flexible working already, how likely are the businesses that you advise to approve flexible working for their employees? 
Highly likely 4.1%
Likely 21.9%
Unlikely 39.7%
Highly unlikely 13.7%
Not applicable 4.1%
Don’t know 16.4%


Would you recommend small business owners approve flexible working for their employees that request it? 
Yes 53.9%
No 18.4%
Don’t know 23.7%
Not applicable 3.9%

One adviser panellist said: “Micro and small businesses have a lot to gain by offering flexible working although some are reluctant to adopt this practice as it has to be managed and it is easier to stick with regularised hours.”

Another panellist commented: “Most businesses I deal with adopt a flexible attitude to employees’ work patterns based on their individual situations e.g. someone needs to support a sick relative, the employer sanctions this making it known that this has been cleared with them but everyone else works as normal.

I have seen some differences between large and small companies. Large companies can take a one size fits all approach in implementing a standard work pattern. Some small companies feel they are too small to have employees varying when they are on site as they feel they are so small that they cannot cope well with absence. However these are instances rather than a trend or pattern.

Where there has definitely been a change in employer attitude is towards remote working from or at home. This has been driven by technology and I suspect a desire to cut overheads.”

The UK Business Barometer and UK Business Adviser Barometer surveys are run by the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The results of the surveys are instantly processed and posted on their respective websites: www.ukbb.ac and www.ukbab.ac

Businesses and advisers wishing to contribute as panellists on the project can register via the websites.

Posted in Business BarometerSMEs