National Charity Family Lives responds to Nick Clegg’s pending flexible working announcement

Claire Walker, Working Mum and Director of Policy, Family Lives says: 

“News that Nick Clegg is to proceed with universal provision to all employees of the right to request flexible working will be a welcome option for many families. While the perception of flexible working has become near universal in UK workplaces - with over 95% purporting to offer at least one flexible working practice - many employers are still unable to see the benefits and cost savings to them of this approach and parents are either refused reasonable requests to change working patterns or are simply too afraid to ask.  Our recent Family Lives’ report ‘Family Friendly or Failing Families?’ found that flexible working is still extremely difficult to obtain across the public and private sector.  Currently, as a result of rising living and childcare costs, many parents, especially women, are forced to leave the workplace taking vital skills and experience with them.  The Government’s ‘Modern Workplaces Agenda’ announcement recognises that many families are struggling with the challenge of reconciling work and family life.  The right to request flexible working will empower parents to remain in employment and can surely only benefit the UK economy.  Family Lives is geared up to help families struggling with this issue through our range of services and we are prepared to engage with any workplace wanting to fully embrace and explore the benefits of flexible working for all.”

Key Tips for implementing Flexible Working

  • The practical objections often raised by managers are not insurmountable – it just calls for a bit of thought, careful planning, clear communication and appropriate training for everyone involved.   
  • Investing in clear forward planning can pay dividends later when a flexible working request arrives.  Flexible working training for all line managers should look at the process of the statutory working request and analyse the sequence of events, from communication to implementation, performance management and review.   Job performance should take into account a line manager’s ability to manage workers remotely.  
  • Investing in new technology.  Technology is the enabler of remote and flexible working, allowing employees to maintain personal relationships.  Mobile devices, remote network access and/or cloud services, desktop visualisation, video conferencing, and social media can allow colleagues to work together despite being physically separated.   
  • Reassess work roles.  Take an open, objective look at job design in terms of the roles’ real objectives and deliverables and the critical factors affecting the job.  For example are there things that need doing every day? Is the role customer facing? Is it a task or project-based?  Does it need to be carried out in the office?  Job designs should be periodically reassessed to assess their compatibility with a flexible working model.
  • Communication with the broader team – team members may have a perspective on helping make a flexible working option work (i.e. another worker may prefer to cover later/earlier hours).  Flexible working requests should be seen in context of a broader team and the potential to work together in ways that make sense for each of the team.  

Parents, adult carers and family members concerned about other family issues can call the free Family Lives Helpline: 0808 800 2222 or visit http://familylives.org.uk/

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 Notes to editors:

1: To request a media interview with Family Lives, please contact the press office via press@familylives.org.uk or call 07525 403 642.

2: Family Lives is a national charity that works for, and with, parents. We encourage parents to see that asking for help is a sign of strength, and work with them to offer practical solutions and suggestions to manage their particular situations and difficulties. We deliver this support through an innovative range of free, flexible, responsive services - shaped by parents for parents. Our services include a free online chat service; a free confidential, helpline 0808 800 2222; Email support; parentsupport@familylivess.org.uk; parenting groups and workshops; a helpful, interactive website for parentswww.familylives.org.uk; and volunteer opportunities.