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Work-life balance: how to organise a flexible team

There are many advantages that an adaptable workforce and a flexible working structure can bring to your small business. Effectively managing a flexible workforce in a small business can be key to its growth and success. For some the best way is through hiring part-time staff, others benefit from introducing homeworking, or perhaps it’s just changing an employee’s status from full-time to something a bit more ... well, flexible. What you need to know about employing flexible workers First, like any employee, flexible workers are legally entitled to be given a written statement of terms and conditions within eight weeks of their start date. You’ll need to think about the right type of contract that will suit you while offering the employees job security. There are a number of options depending on your flexi-working needs; from term-time only and fixed-term contracts to simply a standard permanent contract with a flexi-time scheme. Once the contracts are sorted out, the next complex thing for a small business is to calculate holiday entitlement. The statutory minimum is 28 days a year, or 5.6 weeks for a full-time, permanent employee. A part-time or flexible worker is entitled to the same on a proportional basis. The same goes for salary, pensions and bonuses. The easiest way to work out pay is to calculate the hourly rate of your full-time staff member and apply that to the part-time employee’s hours. Pensions will be calculated as a percentage of the employee’s earnings, dependant on your pension scheme policy. Likewise, it’s important bonuses are calculated on a pro-rata basis equivalent to the hours worked rather than, say, a flat £100 bonus for all staff no matter what their hours, which could give rise to a full-timer complaining that their part-time colleague has worked fewer hours but received the same bonus. Part-time workers also have equal opportunities to apply for promotion and development and shouldn’t be automatically discounted because they work part-time. So keep this in mind the next time you do appraisals and make sure all staff are told about job opportunities no matter what their working hours. Also, you should try to be creative on the design and structure of the role so you’re not excluding flexible workers unnecessarily. Finally, when thinking about taking on someone with a flexible working arrangement, it is best to set expectations from the start. Will there be times when they have to be physically in the office, provide holiday cover, or attend a monthly team meeting? Try and set these out formally so that you both know where you stand. How should a flexible working request be handled? Quite often your flexible workforce is built over time as your full-time employees’ needs change, perhaps due to becoming parents, caring for older relatives or simply because they want a change of lifestyle. Whatever their reason, as an employer you don’t have the right to refuse a staff member’s flexible working request unless you have a proper business reason for doing so. Everyone that has worked for you for six months or more can now request a new arrangement after flexible working rights were extended to all. So, what counts as a business reason? Well, any of the below are acceptable reasons to refuse a flexible working request:

  • burden of additional cost.

  • detrimental effect on the company’s performance.

  • inability to reorganise work among other staff.

  • insufficiency of work during the periods that the employee wants to work.

  • pre-planned structural business changes, which could include any change to roles and responsibilities, or placing staff at risk of redundancy.

For a small business, which might feel the impact more, we would suggest that you agree a three-month trial to see whether the new arrangement affects the smooth-running of the business. A flexible working request doesn’t just mean requests to work part-time though, it can also include home working, changes to hours and also term-time working. Sometimes embracing new non-traditional working arrangements can have a really positive impact on motivation and could even save you money on recruiting a replacement staff member. Finally, remember that any permanent changes to the terms of a contract, either from full-time to part-time or vice versa, must be mutually agreed and cannot be forced upon someone. There is only one exception to this. If you’re experiencing a downturn in business you may have justification to place staff on short-term working arrangements. This reduces their working hours. However, the risk of this is that staff can apply for redundancy if this period extends beyond four consecutive weeks or six weeks across a 13-week period. SOURCE