FAMILY FRIENDLY RIGHTS

Since the last recession, we as a nation are realising that treating people well, works. Are we believing in a work-life balance, or is caring about family life a luxury for the good times?

Good employers – large and small – recognise and act on the evidence: family-friendly policies bring benefits both to the business and to employees.

The recent extension of flexible working to parents of all children up to 16 years old was met with predictable doom and gloom from many in the business lobby. But regulatory impact assessments show that, even at a time of recession, business is set to benefit.

Flexible working retains and motivates employees, leading to savings in recruitment costs and reductions in absenteeism and sickness rates. Research shows flexible working leads to improvements in performance, both at the individual and the team level.

Family-friendly policies can help get the best out of every employee. They can be used as a motivator when pay rises are scarce and they help to ensure that employers attract and retain talent from the widest possible pool of people. Many good employers are looking at flexible options and sabbaticals as alternatives to redundancies. They are reaping the benefits. This is not the response of all employers.

LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES FOR THE EMPLOYER

Employers have a range of legal responsibilities to their staff. At a minimum it is important that you know what these are and have a record of them to ensure that all staff who are eligible are able to benefit. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Statutory maternity leave and pay
  • Paid time off for antenatal care for pregnant employees
  • Unpaid time off for two antenatal appointments for the father or pregnant woman’s partner
  • Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination, and dismissal of pregnant employees
  • Shared parental leave and pay
  • Adoption leave and pay
  • Paternity leave and pay
  • Unpaid parental leave
  • Employees’ right to request flexible working once they have worked for you for 26 weeks or more.

FLEXIBLE OPTIONS

Alongside meeting the statutory obligations set out above, an Employer could offer a workplace environment that provides flexibility to meet the needs of staff and of the business. This could be through offering formal flexible working options or simply through giving a bit of flexibility for a short period of time when it might be needed, for example, a working parent who would like to change their working patterns during school holidays.

The capacity of your business may evolve over time. Depending on the nature of your organisation, you may not yet be able to offer all of the examples set out below. However, over time, you could build on and develop the suite of flexible options you provide for staff. These policies could benefit all staff, not only working parents or those with caring responsibilities.

 

Examples of formal flexible working options include:

  • Part-time working: agree hours that suit business needs and the employee whether these are shorter hours each day or fewer days each week.
  • Home working: facilitates workers to spend all or part of the week working from home. Practically, you could allow meetings to be held using Skype or teleconferencing. For some employees, home working could be for part of a working day, for example, allowing a staff member to leave the office for the school run and then to work at home in the evening.
  • Flexi-time: gives employees the freedom to choose their actual working hours, usually outside certain agreed core times. This means that employees can vary their start and finish times each day at work.
  • Term time working: allows an employee to only work during school term time.
  • Compressed working hours: allow employees to work their total number of contracted hours over a shorter number of days.
  • Annualised hours: employees work on an annualised hours basis with contracted hours calculated over the year rather than per week.
  • Career break: employees can take time off work knowing they have a job to return to.
  • Job sharing: allows the responsibilities of one job to be shared by two or more employees

A C Employment Solicitors can advise you on the above and provide custom made policies that suit your business, small or large.

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