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Flexible Working - What is it and how can it help my practice?

"Flexible working” is something that many managers dread hearing with thoughts of late starts, early finishes and difficult rotas springing immediately to mind. But should we be so negative towards the idea and how could flexible working actually benefit the practice? Importantly, what do you do if an employee makes a request for flexible working?

 

Flexible Working has no exact definition, but includes options for employees such as working from home, reducing their hours and changing start times. One example might be a full time employee that would like to work four longer days in a week and have three days off, rather than the usual two.  Flexible working is growing in popularity. More and more research is showing that employees work harder and more efficiently if they work in an engaging and supportive environment for an employer that genuinely cares. One way of supporting your employees and showing that you do care is by understanding the need to balance home and working life. One way that you can do this is by offering flexible working at the practice and supporting employees in being able to work around their families and commitments outside of work.

Companies allowing flexible working are increasing with the traditional 9-5 role being on the decline. Statistics from the 2019 UK Working Lives Report show that 68% of employees would like to work more flexibly than they currently can. Covid-19 has forced many employers to think differently about work and now we have the prospect of a vaccine in the not so distant future, we can start to think, all be it tentatively, about what work might look like when the pandemic is over.  It is entirely possible that flexible working becomes more popular and even expected by prospective employees.

But what does all this mean for practices? Practices need to ensure that they are employers of choice and perhaps start to think about how a more flexible approach could be adopted. Is it possible for GPs to carry out video appointments on a regular basis? Is there reception work that can be done from home or can employees attend work meetings from home?

Furthermore, employees have a statutory right to request Flexible Working. Any employee who was worked at the practice for 26 weeks and has not made a Flexible Working Request in the previous 12 months, can legally ask their employer to consider whether they could work more flexibly. The request might be to vary their hours, start times or work from home, for example. The practice must consider the request, but they do not have to agree to it if it is not feasible for the business. If the practice does agree to the changes, these form a permanent contractual change for the employee. If the practice cannot accommodate the request, they can try to find a happy medium, suggest other options or simply refuse. The employee can then appeal the decision if they wish. Once they have received the result of the appeal, they cannot make another flexible working request for 12 months.

 

FPM Members can access the FPM library that contains useful documents around Flexible Working such as a Flexibly Working Policy and Flexible Working Application Form


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