Issue date

Work/life balance can be linked to a Well-being at Work campaign. Unless members can resolve the conflicts between the demands of work, family, home and leisure they will be more prone to illness, less able to devote time to acquiring new skills and unable to perform to their full potential. Union representative can help members plan ahead and help them to request changes to take up different work patterns. They can make sure that systems are in place to prevent the pressure building up by ensuring that breaks and leave are taken and that members know about study leave and how to apply for flexible working.

Carrying out a flexible working audit

It is useful to find out what is happening in your organisation so that union representatives can plan their approach to both managers and employees. It may be that informal flexible working goes on in some departments, with people working flexibly on an ad hoc basis with the consent of the manager, but that the HR department is unaware of this as there has been no change in contracts. It might also be the case that there is an agreement in place that is poorly communicated or not implemented properly. The following template will help you gather information about what types of flexible working are in use and identify possible barriers to take up by members or potential members.

Helping a staff member make a request for flexible working

Helping individuals to think about how they are going to manage their workload and about other implications could help them when they discuss proposed changes with their manager and teams.

The union representative can help members to think through what they want to do. Some useful questions to ask themselves could include those outlined below.

Under the law, employees have the right to request to work flexibly. An employer is obliged to consider such requests and should accept them unless they can show that certain business reasons prevent them from doing so. A failure to consider a request for flexible working may also be discrimination in some circumstances.

Type of change

  • Do I want to make a permanent change to my working day?
  • If it is only temporary, how long do I want it to last?

Finances

  • If I work part-time, how will my reduced salary impact on my pension and subsequent plans for retirement?
  • How will I manage if I earn less money?

Benefits

  • Will the organisation benefit from the change?
  • How will it help my work/life balance?
  • How will it help me cope better?
  • Will it improve my performance?

Impact on the organisation

  • Will it cost the organisation more?
  • Will there be a cost saving or will the organisation have to employ additional staff?
  • Will it help or hinder any pressure on office space?

The team and colleagues

  • Have I discussed the proposed changes with my colleagues?
  • How do they feel about it?
  • Is there anybody who works flexibly already that I can speak to about how they managed the change with the team?
  • Will I be putting more pressure on other staff?
  • Will there be enough cover?

Impact on the service

  • If I provide a service to clients or service users, can I still do that if I change my hours or place of work?
  • How could I make it work?

Job sharing

  • Would I be happy to share a job?
  • How will I hand over work?
  • Will I have to share a desk?

Working from home

  • What equipment would I need to work from
  • home?
  • Am I motivated enough to work on my own?
  • Am I organised enough to work from home?
  • How will I make sure I keep up to date on office
  • developments?

Additional help

  • If I change my hours, will I need to organise other people to help with my responsibilities?
  • Have I already organised this?
  • What if it goes wrong?
  • Should I ask for a trial period in case it doesn’t work out?

Advice to flexible workers

Share the following advice with members who are working or who want to work flexibly:

When you’re working flexibly or remotely, you will need to manage your relationship with your manager more proactively.

Ensure that your job focus is clear – agree expectations and performance targets based on outputs rather than hours.

Agree the parameters within which you can work flexibly – think about your objectives, as well as the team’s and be aware of service users’ requirements and the resources needed to carry out the job remotely.

Agree boundaries and protocols – for example, do you intend to run personal errands during the day if you are working at home?

If you intend to make a big change to your way of working, discuss it with your line manager and get their agreement – explain how your objectives will still be met and the impact any change will have on the team.

From time to time, ask yourself if you feel your challenges, problems and achievements are visible enough to your manager.

Plan and attend regular review and feedback meetings with your manager – make these a priority and ensure that they are maintained. Collect evidence to show what is working and discuss with your manager what may not be working and why.

Give your manager the opportunity to share their perspective on how they believe the arrangement is working.

Policy or programme

Do you have an agreement? If yes, is it national or local?

How well known is the policy or programme?

Action points for union representatives

Flexible working policies and practices

Jobs advertised as being open to flexible working

Managers’ training on flexible working policy

Team training on flexible working

Part-time working

Job sharing

Annualised hours

Term-time working

Compressed working week

Home working

Term-time working (paid or unpaid leave during school holidays)

Work in transit

Flexitime

V-time working (voluntary reduced hours for fixed period)

Other

This information is from The TUC Workplace manual. Every rep will find this manual invaluable, and every rep will appreciate the wealth of practical advice and knowledge in this book. Order you copy today.