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This is the fifth of our series of articles aimed at human resource managers, line managers and others responsible for organising, managing, supporting, recruiting, training and retaining staff and with an interest in introducing more flexible working methods.

In this article we outline the need for personnel policies for flexible working and set out a generic list of policy areas that can be used as a checklist in drawing up specific policies.

 

 

 

Policies for flexible working

Policy overview:

Personnel departments are normally responsible for developing and issuing policies relating to working arrangements and practices.  They also translate these policies into practical procedures and issue guidelines to support their implementation.

In some organisations all this information is contained within a staff handbook.  Nowadays the handbook often exists on the corporate intranet, where the latest version is always available for consultation.

Given the diversity of employers and working practices, it is not possible to be exhaustive.  The following sections are simply intended to provide initial checklists for HR managers.  There may be important issues that need to be addressed in some organisations that we do not cover here.

Whilst it is not possible to be prescriptive, the following notes should help HR managers develop personnel policies that are appropriate for different forms of flexible working.

It should be noted that these guidelines are most relevant during the piloting and transition phase, when different forms of flexible working are being evaluated and some staff are still working conventionally.  In the longer term it is to be hoped that the whole organisation will adopt greater flexibility and, as a consequence, policies can be simplified.

Policy checklist:

Contracts of employment

Are there conditions in employment contracts which are no longer relevant, e.g. specifying the place and hours of work, specifying a requirement to be able to drive, etc

Do travel-related benefits need reviewing?

Take care not to attempt to change contracts of employment unilaterally.

Other than where people are to work mainly from home, only visiting an office occasionally, the stated place of work, for Inland Revenue purposes, should generally remain the office.

Standard practice

As part of normal working practice, should all staff normally be expected to work flexibly as job responsibilities demand?  This may mean occasionally working in a different location or to non-standard working hours.

Does the employer endeavour to minimise any domestic impact of this requirement?

Working time

Are there core hours, when all staff are expected to be available for work unless sick, on leave or otherwise absent, e.g. 10.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday?

What are the office hours, when office services and staff access for work are available?

When is attendance required at the office, if at all, for example at least during core hours 2 days per week?

How are actual times at the office agreed in advance? (this is important not only for managers and colleagues but also for desk management)?

What are minimum and maximum working times, for example minimum of full contracted hours each month, maximum of 48 hours per week?

What rights do line managers have to require attendance at the office on specific days and at specific times, what notice do they need to give?

Are timesheets required, showing location of work, days taken as annual leave, sickness and other absences? What are the submission and approval mechanisms?

Working location

Where are staff expected to work when not in the office, for example at home, at a client's site, in a telecentre, etc.?

Should staff working away from the office be at all times accessible by phone and e-mail?

Health and safety

How are risk assessments carried out?

What are the respective responsibilities of the employer and employee?

Are certain types of work or activities not allowed in certain locations, for example using a phone whilst driving, using hazardous equipment at home, having business meetings at home?

Eligibility

Identify who is eligible for flexible working, and indicate why this is fair.

Are there other forms of flexibility that may be available for a wider group of staff, e.g. flexitime only?

Variations

Identify who is authorised to vary policies and what the processes are.

Occasional/temporary arrangements

Flexible working should not be placed in a straightjacket.  What are the arrangements for sanctioning occasional or temporary variations to normal working practices?

Termination of arrangements

Flexible working arrangements may need to be suspended by line managers where business requirements and/or performance warrant this

Also individuals' circumstances may change, or flexible working may not suit them, in which case they should be able to return to conventional arrangements. 

Provision of facilities in the office

Will the employer provide a permanent office desk for every staff member, especially where work patterns warrant shared facilities and office space?

Provision of facilities at home

How will the employer provide, or subsidise the costs of, equipment to allow staff to work effectively and safely at their homes?

How will this equipment be installed and supported?  Will the employer have right of access to the equipment?

Insurance and care of equipment

Employees should be expected to take good care of company equipment.

Who is responsible for insurance? - equipment, premises, third-party, etc.

Confidentiality

Employees should take care to protect company information.

Are there rules or guidelines regarding working in public places?

Payment of expenses

How will the employer compensate staff for any additional costs associated with working flexibly?

How (if at all) will the employer benefit from any cost savings enjoyed by the employee?

Training

What training is offered in flexible working, including health and safety issues?

Is this training compulsory?

Next article: Selection and recruitment

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