Are you concerned about the extension in flexible working rights? Don't be. It's an opportunity to raise productivity and lower costs

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The 2003 law enabling parents and carers of children under 6 and disabled children up to 18 is being extended to include all parents and carers of children up to 16 effective April 6 2009. Employers should see this as an opportunity not a threat as flexibility, managed within a clear structure can increase productivity and reduce costs

Employers should view this change in legislation as a positive step forward rather than something to fear

From April 6th new flexible working rights will mean parents and carers of children under 16 can request to work flexibly, and with 17.1 million families in the UK (ONS, 2006) this could have a significant effect on UK businesses. So is this good news or bad news for employers? Some feel this is another piece of government bureaucracy that employers could do without during the worst recessions in decades. However, organisations that introduced flexible working some years ago are urging employers to see this as a positive opportunity and one that can bring many business benefits, even in a recession.

"Swiftwork helped us introduce flexible working in 2002. It had an immediate impact on our productivity and bottom line figures - and has proved sustainable," said Moira Williamson, HR Manager for the Scottish Legal Aid Board. "We continued to extend flexible working arrangements to all staff whilst being able to put business needs first. We have been able to implement large scale reforms and process changes over recent years and couldn't have done this without our more empowered and flexible workforce".

Potential benefits of flexible working include reduced property costs, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, a doubling of maternity returner rates, reduction in travel costs and significant improvement in staff morale and retention rates.1

It is anticipated that the new flexible working rights could signal millions more requests from employees to work flexibly so it is important that employers have policies in place to cope with the potential increase. The response from the employer can, of course, be a refusal, but, whether positive or negative, a formal written response, including the rationale of a refusal, needs to be given. Interestingly, to date the majority of requests have been approved.

The changes are not a token gesture towards the needs of the family as the government is committed to raising awareness on the right to work flexibly. There is also the matter of dispelling the myth that this is a 'woman's' issue2. Of the 14 million who currently work flexibly, 45% are men.

There is no doubt that flexible working is an issue that has universal appeal. A poll conduced by ICM in 2005 revealed that 60% of people think that the right to request flexible working should be given to all employees and not just to parents.

"Employers should view this change in legislation as a positive step forward rather than something to fear," said Lynette Swift, Managing Director of Swiftwork, which has been designing and implementing flexible working solutions for over ten years. "Flexible working brings significant benefits encompassing property, ICT, people, process - and profit." To find out more log onto or ring 01580 201661.

For more information please contact:
Swiftwork Ltd
Lynette Swift lynette(at)swiftwork(dot)com 01580 201661
or Phil Samuels phil.Samuels(at)swiftwork(dot)com 07807 094355

To conduct a more in-depth interview with Moira Williamson of the Scottish Legal Aid Board or with Lynette Swift at Swiftwork please contact Lynette, as above or Moira on:
    (0131) 226 7061

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Lynette Swift

Phil Samuels
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