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Flexible working option comes into force

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Flexible working option comes into force

From today an extra 4.5 million parents with children aged 16 and under can apply to their employer for flexible working, meaning HR will have to think harder about how to manage the workforce.

The legislation extending the right from parents with children under six to those with children under 16 has come in, despite the recession. There is expected to be a mixed response to the decision with some businesses worrying flexible working will increase costs and lower productivity.

Some businesses are also concerned about potential risks which HR directors will need to take into consideration before allowing flexible working. A request can be denied if there is a business reason behind it, although it’s important to remember that flexible working is an attractive benefit to employees and can help bolster morale and reduce unauthorised absence. Mark Hutchinson, Managing Director at Telindus warns of possible security problems: “Implementing a flexible working policy, or even extending policies that are already in place, isn’t an easy as it might seem. Businesses seeking to introduce home working practices need to consider the levels of security and bandwidth support required to effectively manage remote connectivity. Organisations must also consider carefully the secure remote communication solutions that are available. More importantly, we must ensure that this legislation does not encourage employees to download valuable data onto USB sticks. We certainly don’t need to encourage a new wave of data security problems.”

Other businesses are keen to stress the positive aspects of flexible working. Stephen Beynon, MD, ntl:Telewest Business, claims there’s no need to panic, saying, “This sense of trepidation is unfounded. The misconception that flexible working requires a huge IT investment is similar to the misconception that every employee who works from home is distracted by daytime television.” He continues: “Flexible working can actually help reduce costs and improve employee productivity. Giving employees the opportunity to work on a flexible basis is cost effective to set up and has added benefits such as supporting business continuity planning. Just like the markets that they operate in, businesses are no longer static. Their business models must reflect this. Forward looking businesses will see this as an opportunity rather than a burden.”

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