Change One Thing

I’m still thinking about flexible working. Still thinking about the barriers and the attitudes and the assumptions.

I have had an idea. About a small change that could make a big difference.

The legislation about flexible working presents a barrier in itself. Initially introduced for employees with childcare and caring responsibilities, this remains the frame of reference for many.  It remains something that ‘some’ people need or want.  And for ‘some’ people read people that are not ambitious, committed or willing to put their career above everything else.

The legislation allows employees to request flexible working after 26 weeks. I have yet to find an organisation with a published policy that allows it sooner*.  Even those organisations that talk on their website about flexible working, don’t make this simple change.

What does this mean in practice?

Let’s assume for a moment, I work flexibly today. I want to look for work – but I still need or want that flexibility.  I have found research that says only 6% of jobs paying over 20K are advertised as being suitable for flexible working.  So what do I do? Stay where I am, or go for a job and hope I can negotiate flexibility later?  When I have proved myself, perhaps.

For those that join a new organisation, this might mean six months of challenge – whether that is about caring or childcare, or just not having the life work balance that they need. Six months of wondering – with added time at the end whilst a formal process winds its way through the policy flowchart.

Why is it we are prepared to consider flexibility at 26 weeks, but not before? Why don’t we advertise more jobs as being flexible?  The implication underneath this attitude seems to be that if you join a company and do well, it will be considered.  It’s a little like the probation period – we like you enough to offer you a job, but we are reserving our rights all the same.

There is no less admin burden to discussing or agreeing flexibility up front. Those people that need or want it will ask anyway, later on – and then you have a formal process to go through.  Not to mention the stress that might be incurred on the part of the new starter.

If we advertised jobs with the option of flexibility, it gives permission. It will give a candidate the confidence to ask and negotiate, and for the parties to agree something right at the beginning that will work for everyone.

Just because the law says you can make someone wait 26 weeks, it doesn’t mean you have to. If you offer enhanced maternity pay, holiday or sickness benefit, couldn’t you enhance your flexible working policy too?

Day one requests. A statement during the recruitment process telling candidates that they can ask – now.  Small changes.  Big difference.


*If you have an example I would love to see it and will share it here!

If you are based in the Manchester area and want to discuss more ideas like this one, come along to the CIPD Manchester Big Conversation. Book here:

2 thoughts on “Change One Thing

  1. It’s really interesting isn’t it; organisations talk about Trust as being a core value but don’t show this in their policy approach. To use some darn mgmt speak for a moment Trust really is a two way street – we want you to come here and live our values but we’re going to make you wait before we do the same with you…

  2. We have recruited 3 fab staff members- 2x sales and one customer service by doing exactly that. Employers are missing a trick because you can get great talent at a reduced cost if you are prepared to offer flexibility up front

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