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Time to call for further workplace flexibility

Whilst many see flexible working as an opportunity to juggle a work life balance more successfully, a lot of work needs to be done around overall wellbeing for the employee – and ways in which the employer can help facilitate that.

We wrote an article recently about how the working day pattern has considerably shifted from the traditional 9-5. This shift in working patterns was driven by the added need for flexibility, either because of childcare, but also due to longer working hours.

As we spend more time on the commute to work, many who end up working on the train have asked employers to be more flexible as to whether this counts as “working time” or not.

There are also those who are primary caregivers, either to children or elderly parents, and require flexibility built into their working day. According to recent figures by the Office for National Statistics, 41% of us know we will have to take on care responsibilities to parents at some point.

The financial toll is quite significant to the employer. It costs an average of £5,545 a year in lost income, according to a study by Fidelity International, with one in ten citing annual outlay is more like £10,000. One fifth of those surveyed in the same study had reduced their hours at work to look after an older relative and one in 10 had quit their job altogether.

As well as the cost, there is the wellbeing of the employee to consider. Take Mr Edwards for example, who was recently featured on BBC News about the imbalance between primary care givers to children. He says "I was expected to just get back on the horse and fulfil my pre-dad life at work. I remember staring at the computer screen, feeling constantly agitated and struggling to concentrate." It's a story familiar to many women. Mothers remain the dominant caregivers and have long wrestled with how to balance careers and family. However, despite the growing numbers of men struggling with anxiety and depression after the birth of a child, there is relatively little encouragement to pursue alternative options.

In the UK, partners can now share parental responsibility if both are in full time employment. Shared Parental Leave was introduced in 2015, and allows up to 50 weeks of leave - 37 weeks of which is paid. This leave can be shared out, providing they meet certain eligibility criteria. From 2011 to now, fathers have also been entitled to extended paid paternity leave, called additional paternity leave. However, concerns have been raised after only a fraction of new fathers had taken the opportunity of longer paternity leave.

If you are an employer or an employee looking for some advice, contact the Employment Team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Posted on 17/10/2019 by David Seals

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