Flexible Working: Guidance for Managers

1. Guidance for considering requests

2. Guidance for the flexible working request meeting

3. Guidance for managing flexible working

4. Further guidance for managers: What is the request?

1. Guidance for considering requests

Preparation before meeting with the staff member

In advance of the meeting with the staff member:

  • Think carefully about the request and any potential benefits/impact of the proposed way of working;
  • Make any necessary initial enquiries as to how this request might be accommodated i.e. assess other team members working patterns, future staffing plans, forthcoming projects/workload etc;
  • Think creatively to try to accommodate requests;
  • Seek advice within the department, as appropriate (for example, in line with any local reporting arrangements that may exist);
  • It is important not to make any presumptions about the request without first speaking to the employee.

IMPORTANT: If a member of staff wishes to reduce their working hours, whereby their salary decreases as a result, this may have implications for staff with visa restrictions. Before making an application for flexible working, all staff with a visa should contact a member of their Faculty HR Team.

Considerations for staff with significant caring responsibilities

Carers’ needs are different from the needs of staff with mainstream childcare responsibilities, and the circumstances and milestones of caring may also different. It is therefore important for managers to consider what flexible adjustments could be made to support these staff to combine work with care.

Potential flexible arrangements may include, but are not limited to:

  • Flexible working arrangements (Informal/Formal);
  • Use of a telephone to make or receive calls in connection with his/her caring responsibilities;
  • Private time or a private space to make/receive calls;

See Supporting Staff With Caring Responsibilities - Guiding Principles for further information.

2. Guidance for the flexible working request meeting

During the meeting

The purpose of this meeting is:

  • To engage in practical dialogue about the request;
  • To enable further consideration of the request;
  • To explore flexible working options;
  • To enable a balanced decision to be made based on the needs of both the business and employee.

Advice to help you to make your decision

Before making a decision:

  • It is essential to fully consider the impact the decision may have on the employee if you turn down the request.
  • It is essential to ensure that you have fully considered the individual's circumstances and their needs, as well as the needs of the business.
  • It is essential to ensure that you have considered the case on its own merit. It is not acceptable to turn down a request based on the outcome of a similar request make by another employee(s). It is also not necessary to accept a request simply because another individual is already working a similar flexible working arrangement.
  • It is important to ensure that, where appropriate, advice is sought within the department, (for example, in line with any local reporting arrangements that may exist);
  • It is important to ensure that, where appropriate, advice is sought from Finance in relation to any potential budgetary impacts;
  • If you are in any doubt about the decision you should make, offer the employee a trial period. This will enable both parties to determine whether the flexible working arrangement may be accommodated.

IMPORTANT: In an environment where a number of staff are already working flexibly, it may be helpful to consider calling for volunteers from staff with existing flexible working arrangements, who may wish to change these working arrangements, thereby creating the capacity to grant a new flexible working request.

Dealing with multiple requests

There may be some occasions, when a manager receives more than one request, close together, from two different members of staff.  If this happens, it is important to recognise that if the first request is approved, the business context will have changed. As such, the second request should take into account this change to the workforce.

Whilst in some circumstances it may be possible to approve both requests, before making their decision, managers may wish to have a discussion with both staff. This may be helpful to explore if there is any room for adjustment or compromise in relation to their requests.

IMPORTANT: If more than one request is received, the legislation does not require managers to make value judgements about which member of staff is most deserving of their request. Each case should be considered on its own merits, looking at the business case and the possible impact of refusing a request.

Budget Implications

IMPORTANT: Please note that if a member of staff reduces their hours through flexible working there will be implications to your departmental budgets:

  • In the short term, departments would retain the budget to replace the staff hours created by the reduction or they could use this to put towards departmental cost saving;
  • In the longer term, after a while, if not utilised to replace staffing hours, this budget would disappear during forecasting.

3. Guidance for managing flexible working

It is important to recognise the possible benefits of enabling flexible working within the University. The top 5 tips below are provided to managers to help ease concerns over introducing flexible working arrangements within their department:

1. The decision to accept a request is at the manager’s discretion and he/she will evaluate the effects that it may have on the department. When a request is made the most important thing to consider is that the work gets done to an appropriate standard.

Please note, however, that there is no right for a request to be agreed. Each case is to be considered by managers on its own merits, taking into account of factors such as whether the proposed arrangement will be of mutual benefit to the University as well as the individual.

2. The relationship between the manager and the employee working flexibly is key to the success of any flexible working arrangement by setting mutual clear and realistic expectations. Use regular one to ones, department meetings and SRDS to review and ensure staff members working flexibly have access to these.

3. Good communication will ensure that all employees are aware when (and where, if applicable) their colleagues are working.

4. Flexible working should not mean more work for everyone else.

5. Flexible working is circumstantial so not everyone will want or will be able to work flexibly.