National Work Life Week – what does it mean?

People hangout together at coffee shop

National Work Life Week (1-5 October) is an initiative that encourages employers to focus on how to help their staff balance work and home life.

Recently, flexible working has been at the forefront of employment reform. For some, the concept of working a 9-5 job is fast becoming a distant memory, largely down to the gig economy. The ability to work when and where you want is increasingly becoming a necessity for employees, with personal commitments such as hobbies and family care taking priority over large salaries and desk slavery.

So, what rights do employees have, and what effect does it have on productivity?

Paul Kelly, a partner and head of employment law at Blacks Solicitors, provides some insight into the rights employees have when it comes to working flexibly.

Historically, parents of children aged 16 or under and those with disabled children under the age of 18 had the right to apply to work flexibly if they had 26 weeks’ continuous service. Once a formal request was made the employer had to deal with it according to a strict bureaucratic process – and within a short timescale,” says Kelly.

A change in the law in June 2014 meant any employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service can make a flexible working request. The employee need simply state the reasons for the request, provide information about their current and proposed working pattern, and identify the date from which they would like the changes to take effect.

Vitally, the employee must explain to the employer what effect they predict the change would have on the employer’s business and how they would propose to accommodate it.

Once received, the employer has three months to either grant the request or refuse it. An employer can refuse a request to work flexibly but that refusal must be based on at least one of eight statutory grounds; for example, the burden of additional cost or the impact on business performance.”

Working flexibly can and does have significant benefits on employee wellbeing, and how productive they can be in the workplace.

Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health, said: “Employers need to remember, that not everyone is the same and to treat each employee as an individual – whether that be with their capabilities in a work sense, or physically with their commitments outside of work.

Its important employers offer the facilities for staff to work around their schedule, in order to maintain a positive work life balance, which will in turn result in them being much more productive at work. If they have the time to manage these commitments outside of work properly, they can give their full attention to their performance at work.”

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