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Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Future of work

Flex Working – An Age Old Question

At what age do you no longer need flex working? It is often assumed that people in the later stages of life make little use of this option as their responsibilities have diminished and their stress curves have flattened. Perhaps they are even comfortably retired and are in their rocking chairs watching Gardeners World? The reality is that people are toiling longer than their forebears, thus precipitating a generational change that impacts on how we view and facilitate employment.

Adding up the numbers                               

With the state pension spiralling upwards, the brutal truth is that many people have no choice but to soldier on. As was demonstrated with the furore that arose when the pension age for women was dramatically raised from 60 to 65, we cannot be sure what the future holds. Flex keeps the older generation in employment and particularly so when health issues rear their head. Agile work formats mean people can avoid the detrimental effects of pension poverty whilst also continuing to contributeto the state and more widely to society.

A Wealth of Experience

The older generation brings much to the workplace in terms of expertise and mentoring that should not be overlooked. By not offering flex working, all these advantages are lost as people step out of the economy taking so much of note and merit with them. Age is as much a protected characteristic under the Equality Act as gender, race or sexuality and should not be viewed as a justification for negatively predetermining talent or capability.

Offering flexibility to retain the talent of older employees is crucial. Workplaces can then become more diverse andinformed environments. We can all benefit from harnessing decades of valuable experience.”

Stephen Burke, Director of United for All Ages

Artificial age-based constructs help no-one. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, one day we will be judged not on our birth certificates but on the content of our character.

Childcare and Kinship Care

Government statistics indicate that 1 in 4 working families rely on grandparents for childcare and 63% of grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare. This is not just about a spot of evening babysitting but rather such assistance plays a critical role in enabling parents to work. The childcare they provide is worth £7.3 billion a year as estimated by the charities Age UK and Grandparents Plus.

When older people can work flexibly, they support the younger generation to achieve their goals and potential. Since the major part of childcare is done by women, this has an impact on how women progress professionally and on issues such as narrowing the gender pay gap.

In complex cases, older family members may come forward in to look after children when the parents cannot, as an alternative to foster care. Flex helps to keep children at home, and it has been shown time and time again that staying with the birth family produces more successful outcomes.

It is not merely about having a better social upbringing. There is a domino effect for all of us. When, for example, grandparents step in to care instead of the state, they save the taxpayer money and resources. Flex working is a vital part of that process.”

Lucy Peake, CEO of the charity, Kinship

An Unstoppable Demographic

We are living longer and the proportion of the older generation relative to the population as a whole is increasing. Age is not something we can control and (barring a tragic early demise) it will happen to us regardless. We all have a strong vested interest it. Do we really want a system that sabotages our future selves? For harnessing experience, for better family and social relationships, for fairness – that is why flex working is required for the later ages and stages of our lives.

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Flexible Working

Flexible Working Appeal – How to Make a Convincing Flex Request

Flexible working is undergoing a paradigm shift. Cued by the Covid pandemic, several businesses are leaning towards a more agile format. Tech giants are trailblazing and high-street brands are following suit. But many employers remain hesitant about flex. Perhaps because it was presented during lockdown in its most dystopian manner – stressful, isolated and juggled in with home-schooling. How do you convince a doubtful boss about the long-term benefits of flex?

What procedure?

You may make a statutory flexible working request if you meet the requirements. Alternatively, you may submit an informal request. For more information on your legal rights, check out www.acas.org.uk and www.gov.uk. Whichever route you choose, you will still have to sell your idea.

Slice it up

Too often people think that the default is to go part-time. There are myriad options out there and you may find that full-time but with core or staggered hours is actually more feasible. Slice up your working life and see what kind of flex will suit each part of it. For example, you could do compressed hours in conjunction with home-working. Be as creative as you can, so that you can present your employer with as many realistic alternatives as possible.

Gather evidence of Flexible Working

A case is only as good as its evidence. Check whether your employer has a flexible working policy in its handbook and use that as a starting point. To boost your request, you could gather case-studies which relate directly to your job position which demonstrate successful examples of flex working. The strongest argument against “it can’t be done” is to show, exactly and concretely, how it is being done. You may also gather statistics about flex and the corresponding impact on productivity in your industry.

Sell your business model

Our reasons for flex-working are deeply rooted because they impact on such important areas of life such as health, family or identity. But this is not the time to present a purely personal case or one that deals solely with generalities. By all means, emphasise the positive outcomes for you but that it only half the story. We all acknowledge that there are many advantages associated with homeworking. There is less stress, less time lost commuting, less pressure on public transport and a positive impact on the environment. However, your employer still has a business to run, as well as a profit and loss account to balance.

Get specific. Anticipate every push-back your employer can make and come up with a persuasive solution. If you work from home on Thursdays and there is a scheduled team meeting that day, offer to link in via Zoom.
Talk up the benefits to the employer of offering flexibility. If you work remotely full-time, your boss could save money on renting commercial office space. If business is brisk at the start of the week but sluggish later on, you could offer to do more hours on Monday in return for an early departure on Friday.


Flex back

Flexibility is two-way street. If your employer is willing to let you flex, be prepared to do the same in return. When there is an away day that usually falls on your at-home time, still turn up. If there is a sudden temporary upsurge in work, pitch in by logging on in the evening for example (although be vigilant that this does not settle into a permanent pattern). This approach not only builds strong businesses, it also promotes goodwill and fruitful professional relationships. Check out why staying connected while remote working important and how you can best state your case to your employer how it will work for them.

Schedule a Flexible Working trial period

Employers may well be sceptical about whether flex working will actually deliver and this uneasiness can lead them to turn down requests. To combat this hesitancy, offer a trial period to see how it pans out. If there are difficulties, use this experience as an opportunity to iron them out in a proactive manner.
Flex Appeal. Have you got it?