Telemarketing and telesales company Broadley Speaking demonstrates benefits of flexible working
The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech that they were pressing ahead with controversial plans to extend flexible working rights to parents of children aged under 16.
Reaction in the aftermath was anything but flexible. One business leader said ministers were “absurd”, another complained about “red tape” and a third captain of industry warned the changes would be implemented at the “worst possible moment”.
But according to Nikki Duncan of lawyers Bond Pearce, opposition to the extension of rights to flexible working may prove only a knee-jerk response. “This is partly because of a popular misconception that it is a right to require flexible working. It is not, but rather a right to request, which can therefore be turned down if it is not suitable for the particular job/business.
However, many employers in the South West have already discovered the many benefits to the employer, as well as the employee, of the wide range of flexible working patterns now available.
Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that already some 14 million UK employees work flexibly. Many of those are parents of young children, but many are not, and it is certainly no longer right to see it as preferential treatment for parents (where employers, historically, feared a backlash from childless workers).
Indeed since last year, carers have also had the statutory right to request flexible working, and following an important European court decision this year employers risk disability discrimination claims if they treat, carers of disabled dependents less favourably than other workers.
Other factors driving flexible working include skill shortages, and the shift in culture and demographic landscape. Also the increasing statistical evidence of the business benefits of flexible working in terms of lower staff turnover, increased productivity, and decreased absenteeism.
Therefore, whilst some employers, particularly SMEs fear that they may not be able to cope with the extension of this right, once properly understood many more are being persuaded of its advantages.
Hilary Broadley, for example, of Tavistock-based B2B telemarketing firm Broadley Speaking, is an enthusiastic proponent of the benefits flexible working can bring. “I run a Devon based telemarketing and telesales business and we service local, national and international clients, we find the benefits in terms of staff morale and engagement are tangible. The knock on effect is lower staff turnover and a reduction in employment costs.”
Flexible working can mean a change to the number of hours worked, the times required to work or the location of work.
It also includes job-sharing, home working, annualised hours, shortened hours, flexi-time, shift working, staggered hours, term-time working and self-rostering.
“Many south-west employers are already capitalising on the advantages of modern information technology to facilitate home working, teleworking, and similar flexible patterns.
“Flexibility can save wasted travel time and reduce the cost of physically covering our wide geographical patch. Further, whilst in a recession, at first blush this legal extension may seem an added burden to businesses, if properly handled it can save overhead costs, help businesses retain key workers, and manage their business more efficiently so that they are well placed to move ahead of the competition coming out of the recession.
So the issue is not at all “absurd”. Certainly, flexible working requests need to be carefully handled (not least to minimise the risk of sex or disability discrimination) but otherwise this key part of the “work life balance agenda” is actually a very sensible way of managing businesses, in the interest of both employer and employee, in the 21st century.
Visit the website of the UK’s leading B2B telemarketiing and telesales company Broadley Speaking: www.broadley-speaking.com