Change is afoot with the introduction of new Flexible Working rules provided under the Children and Families Bill. These changes come in to effect on the 30th June 2014, but what are the changes and what do they mean, both for businesses and for employees?
Current legislation allows for employees with 26 weeks continuous service to apply for flexible working hours if they have a child under 17 (or 18 if disabled), or if they have carer responsibilities. The changes to the rules will allow all employees with 26 weeks or more continuous service to apply for Flexible Working. When considering applications, rather than the stringent procedures that have been in place until now, all that will be required is that all applications be considered in a ‘reasonable manner’.
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible Working affects three areas: working hours, working times and working location. Applications may consist of requests for job sharing, working from home, part time hours, compressed hours, Flexi hours, or any combination of these.
Reasons to decline applications for Flexible Working include the inability of a company to reorganise work amongst existing staff, the inability to recruit new staff and the effect on the ability of the business to meet customer demand. Effects on performance and quality also feature, however for surgeries many, if not all of these points will be difficult to argue.
If a vet surgeon (or nurse) requests to work fewer hours or to work different hours, this can usually be accommodated by the provision of an additional part time role, or the creation of an out of hours specific role. Certainly this type of working practice is not going to have any affect on the performance and quality of work. As a number of practices need staff members to be working differing shift patterns (earlies and lates) and be on call throughout the day and night, every day of the year, it’s difficult to argue there is a time when the requested hours would be ‘inappropriate to work flow’.
These days, the majority of vets qualifying from college are female. As such the demand for flexible working hours to fit around family commitments has been increasing steadily for some years. However with the introduction of these changes we may also see more male vets applying for flexible working hours too. The evidence shows that the way people work is changing and it appears the veterinary world has become the unwitting leader of the revolution.