Flexible Working

What is a flexible working policy? (with a free flexible working policy template)

What is a flexible working policy? (with a free flexible working policy template)

Not that long ago, flexible working was seen as a perk offered by a few, fairly niche employers. But our working landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years, and flexible working is now both expected and regarded as the norm by most employees

If you’re a startup or small business wanting to better understand flexible working, and what a flexible work policy should consist of, this is the guide for you

I’ll outline what to include in your flexible working policy and explain how to properly handle flexible working requests. And to make things even easier, I’ve included a free and editable flexible working policy template for you to use immediately at your own business. 

Download Charlie's flexible working policy

Flexible working is a way of working that better suits the employee’s needs, and can include working from home or flexible start and finish times. Compressed hours or core hours (for instance, working a 9-day fortnight with no reduction in pay, like we do at Charlie) is an example of flexible working. 

The demand for flexible working has increased since Covid, and employers who offer more flexibility are attracting the best people. So setting out your ambitions and expectations in a flexible working policy is vital — especially for progressive businesses. 

What is a flexible working policy?

A flexible working policy communicates your aims and processes as a company in regards to flexible working.

Your policy should:

  • define what flexible working is
  • outline the different options available for flexible working
  • explain the process for making a request and formally changing a working pattern. 

A flexible working policy is written to assist your employees, and protects and promotes you as a startup or small company.

Who needs a flexible working policy?

All employees are legally able to request flexible working, and from April 2024*, someone can make a flexible working request from their very first day of employment

This law change means that a flexible working policy is now essential. Businesses that don’t have a flexible working policy in place will be on the back foot and appear out of touch with the modern working world. 

Your employees can make a statutory application for flexible working, and request to change:

  • the number of hours they work
  • when they start or finish work
  • the days they work
  • where they work.

So your flexible working policy needs to tell your employees how to make a statutory request, and outline your process for dealing with it

(*Up until April 2024, an employee must have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks before making a flexible working request.)

What should a flexible working policy include?

Your flexible working policy is a resource and reference for your team, and a framework for you

As a guide, these are the sections your flexible working policy should contain:

  • Introduction to the policy - what it is, who it’s for etc.
  • Introduction to flexible working - what it is, why it’s a good thing, how you encourage it as a business etc.
  • Types of flexible working - the different flexible working options an employee might choose or consider.
  • Flexible working and your business - basically, the needs of your organisation, and something for you to refer to when reviewing requests.
  • Who is eligible for flexible working - as of April 2024, any employee can make a request for flexible working from their first day on the job.
  • How to make a flexible working request - the steps and process every employee needs to follow.
  • Responding to a flexible working request - what you will do as the employer, including potential meetings and an expected timeframe.
  • How to appeal a flexible working request decision - what an employee can do if they’re unhappy with the outcome.
  • Trailing a new flexible way of working - details of any trial period, including reviews and a timeframe. 
  • Changes to a contract of employment - how the flexible working terms will be formalised.
  • Making a complaint – understanding what steps to take if someone complains or appeals the decision. 

To be useful to your team and your business, your flexible working policy needs to be logical, chronological, and easy to understand and action.

What are the barriers for small businesses around flexible working?

Flexible working can feel trickier for small businesses:

Productivity concerns - will flexible working reduce collaboration and communication amongst your team?

Monitoring and evaluation - do you feel uneasy about monitoring the performance of remote-working team members?

Operational efficiency - could flexible working potentially disrupt workflows and the ability to meet deadlines?

Company culture - how do you foster a positive company culture if employees are not physically present in the office?

Policy implementation challenges: how do you implement a flexible working policy that’s fair and uniform for all?

Employee engagement: how do you maintain a sense of connection if a significant portion of your team is working remotely?

All of these concerns are valid, which is why having a good flexible working policy in place is vital for any startup or small business

A flexible working policy is a guide for both you and your team. Done right, it will prompt and promote open discussion, and enable you to respond professionally to the changing needs of your employees. 

Free flexible working policy template

We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to – all as part of our hybrid working model! This flexible working policy template is free for you to download, adapt and take inspiration from:

Download Charlie's flexible working policy

How Charlie can help with your flexible working policy

Even with the help of a policy template, you're still likely to have questions around all the flexible working options and which will work best for your business and your team. After all, there is no one size fits all when it comes to working flexibly. 

Which is why so many small businesses turn to our HR advice service for support.

Charlie’s HR Advice is a bespoke service that exists to help small companies and startups better manage their people. Through it you’ll get:

  • Anytime access to a dedicated HR advisor, who will help you to hone your flexible working policy and answer all of your HR questions. 

Your advisor is available whenever you need them via phone, email or chat. They can even review and combine all of your policies into a personalised company handbook. Book a call to find out more about the service.

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