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  • International Workplace
  • 24 August 2007
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All in a day’s work? [Audio]

The Right to Request flexible working has enabled a greater number of employees to change their working patterns to help them fit their work schedule around personal commitments. Whilst some employers have not welcomed the changes to the law, citing administrative and financial burdens, most believe that allowing their employees to work flexibly has improved productivity and employee satisfaction. 

In response to protests from employees at a meat-processing factory over changes to their working hours, we are looking at flexible working from an employer’s perspective – and what options are available to a company that wishes to change their employees’ working patterns. If a company has a genuine business need for changing its employees’ shifts – either in response to a change in working practices, or to compete more effectively in a competitive market – they are entitled to change their workers’ methods and modes of employment.

The difficulty arises when the employees are not willing to comply – as has recently been the case with Huntingdon-based Hilton Meats, a factory employing 350 people, whose management wants to change its workers’ hours to three 12-hour shifts, equating to a 72 hour week across a working fortnight.

Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Andy Watson of the Transport and General Workers Union explains the situation of the workers at the meat-processing factory, and how they feel they have not been consulted about the proposed changes.

Also in the debate is David Woollcott, HR Advisor to Workplace Law Group, who explains the Flexible Working legislation and highlights what an employer needs to do if they wish to change the working patterns of their staff.

Woollcott maintains:

“If the organisation has a genuine business need to [employ flexible working practices] without which they might be in some competitive disadvantage then overall, if the company is not able to gain the agreement of the employees ultimately the company might find themselves at a distinct disadvantage … sometimes, regrettably, when push comes to shove, the company does have to make that final decision as to what they need to do.”

The full debate can be heard here.

Workplace Law Network has today published new guidance on the issue of flexible working. The Guide to Flexible Working 2008 covers the reasons why some employers are looking to introduce flexible working into their workplace, explores different flexible working patterns, including their benefits and disadvantages, and provides detail on the formal legislative right to request.

The Guide also looks at the employment and non-employment legal issues that surround flexible working and the necessary amendments that need to be made to an employee’s contractual terms and conditions if a flexible working pattern is agreed. Finally, it seeks to give practical advice in relation to drafting and implementing a flexible working policy.

Written by Graham Paul, a partner at Dundas & Wilson, the downloadable Guide to Flexible Working 2008 is essential reading for anyone with responsibility for human resources, in companies both large and small. Order before 29 August and receive a 10% discount.