Rena Magdani: How does flexibility help with recruitment and retention in a challenging climate?

Flexible working challenging climateWith recruitment difficulties set to continue, businesses need to attract applicants and retain staff as best they can. Embracing flexible working could make a business more attractive in a difficult climate. Flexible working is one element employers can control in terms of the talent pool; the time to act is now.

Since 6 April this year, all employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of service and can make two requests a year. This does not mean that staff have an entitlement to flexible working, as there are eight reasons allowed for refusing requests, but employers must consult with staff, meet with them and offer the right to appeal.

An employee who has made a request under the statutory procedure can bring a claim to an employment tribunal if their employer fails to deal with the request in a reasonable manner, refuses the request without consulting with them, fails to notify them of the decision within two months, or rejects the request for a reason other than one of the eight legal reasons allowed. Employers should make sure they follow the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) code on flexible working when dealing with requests.

Flexible working is more than working from home. It can include job sharing, remote working, hybrid working, part-time hours, compressed hours, flexi-time, annualised hours, staggered hours, predictable hours or set shift patterns, phased retirement and more. Employers should consider whether there are options that they have not considered that could benefit both the business and staff.

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Making hybrid working work for the business and its staff does require planning. Employers need to tailor hybrid work to the unique needs of the individual, team and department. Line managers are key in effective hybrid working. Areas to consider include how to maintain effective communication, clarifying everyone’s roles and responsibilities, how to manage performance management effectively, how to support staff appropriately, how to facilitate networking, how they will check on employee wellbeing and how to manage conflict.

Rena Magdani is national head of employment, pensions and immigration at Freeths