Herts Council boosts flexible working

Hertfordshire County Council is to beef up its flexible working practices as part of plans to close the doors on almost 50 offices across the county. The council plans to allow those staff affected by the changes, the option of working up to four days out of five at home.

It is also prepared to make appropriate computing equipment available to those who opt to do so. Claire Howarth, employee relations and equalities manager for Hertfordshire County Council, said slashing the council’s portfolio to three properties would cut costs by 20%, but would affect 4,500 staff. "From an HR point of view it’s a cultural change programme, we’re taking the opportunity provided by this reorganisation to take a better approach to flexible working. We know our staff would like the benefits, and our priority is to invest in good staff accommodation that provides the means to do that."

The first stage of the project will begin in January, and will involve the transfer of 1,000 staff into new premises in Apsley. Many employees will face a longer trip to work but Howarth said they may be able to transfer to other departments or be retrained for alternative employment.

Further retrenchment will relocate 1,500 staff to a planned site in north Hertfordshire by late 2007, although the council has yet to acquire the premises. The other site will be the existing County Hall in Hertford. Howarth said mobile working was a practical development. "For those who might have a long work journey, when they hear a bad traffic report they can say ‘I want to spend my first hour working at home’ and then come in, or work at home."