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Having a Conversation About Flexible Working

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John Timpson

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In this, his second blog as the Women’s Business Council (WBC) member of the month, John Timpson, Chairman, Timpson Ltd talks about the upcoming changes to the regulation covering flexible working and how he sees the impact on businesses including his own.

In my first blog I spoke about the why my company, Timpson Ltd changed its management style and embraced flexible working in a High Street retail environment. In this blog I want to talk about the changes to the regulation which will come into force this year and what it will mean for businesses and their employees.
The current flexible working regulations only apply to employees with childcare or caring responsibilities, but the government will be extending the right to request to all employees. Should this be a worry to businesses? My opinion? No. It is important to remember that the regulation gives an employee the right to request, not the right to have. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills have asked ACAS to draft simplified guidance for business which should make the system easier to navigate.
I know that some employers feel that the end of the 26 week qualifying period for flexible working requests is a hurdle that can create uncertainty when taking on new staff. I would suggest that you be open to a discussion from the start. If both you and your prospective employee know where you stand, the uncertainty is removed. Working Families offer excellent support to companies who are looking to help their employees through flexible working. You could be missing out on some star employees if you close your mind to flexible working.
Flexible working isn’t part-time, working the same hours every week isn’t flexible. It can take many forms such as home-working, a temporary contract, flexitime, job sharing, term time contracts and shift working. A little adjustment can help you hold on to your best employees. While I was working on the Women’s Business Council report I met a recruitment company that had placed a client in a major London law firm who worked from home in the evenings. This meant that she was available to talk to the company’s clients in the US when it was convenient for them. I also met the CEO of a small promotional ware company in the North West who had a member of their sales team who logged on from home to make sales calls. Home was in the Caribbean.
I will be meeting a group of Chief Executives later this week to discuss how men can act as agents of change to encourage a new culture in business that embraces flexible working and recognises how it can help you retain your best staff, increase productivity and add to the bottom line.
My final word of advice would be, it could make a big difference to recruiting and retaining the best employees. Great businesses have great people who are much more likely to work for you if you have a positive approach to flexible working.
Some of my past blogs include:

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