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HR Topic - Changes to flexible working regulations & encouraging a work-life balance

By: Croner | Post date: 23/05/2024 | Time to read article: 4 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 11/07/2024

In recent years, the concept of flexible working and work-life balance has transitioned from a mere buzzword to a strategic imperative, especially in high-stress environments such as medical or dental workplaces. As an employer within these crucial industries, it’s paramount to recognise not only the evolving employment law landscape, but also the practice benefits that flexible working can bring to both staff wellbeing and practice productivity.

In the article, we’ll delve into the specifics of the updated flexible working regulations, offering insights from our partners Croner – leading HR and Employment law consultancy. We’ll also look into why a good work-life balance is so important and how this can benefit your practice.

As a Medical Protection/Dental Protection member, you can access complimentary telephone advice through Croner. You can speak to one of their experts today on 01455 639 125, just quote your association reference number to access their advice.

The Latest Legislation

As a summary, a request for flexible working is a request from an employee to change working patterns. Some forms of flexible working are:
  • Part time working.
  • Changes to days or times or locations worked.
  • Job share arrangements.
  • Annualised hours (usually implemented across a group of employees to meet fluctuating demand for work around the year).
  • Working from home.
  • Flexi-time arrangements.

From April 2024, the 26-week service requirement needed to make a flexible working request will be removed.

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 was approved by parliament last year and confirms that any requests made from 6 April 2024 do not need a minimum service requirement. This means, that submitting a flexible working request will become a day one right for employees.

Employees are now permitted to submit up to two flexible working requests within a 12-month period (this has increased from just one request per year) and employers must process received requests within two months. This includes reviewing the application, consulting with the employee and giving a formal response.

All Requests must be received in writing from the employee, and include:

  • The date the proposed changes would start from
  • The preferred pattern of working
  • Confirm if and when any previous flexible working requests have been made.

It is no longer a requirement for employees to provide what predicted effect their request will have on the practice or how this impact should be handled.

How Will These Changes Affect My Practice?

Its highly recommended that you ensure that you have a flexible working request policy in place to help you manage these requests. For example, if you are unable to approve any requests received throughout peak business periods, then including this in your policy will help prevent unnecessary requests. Without having a policy in place, employees cannot be expected to follow the correct procedure, as technically the correct procedure does not exist. If you have a policy in place already, then it’s vital that this is updated to reflect the above legislation changes.

Having an out of date policy could be classed as a breach of legislation should you find your practice in a tribunal hearing. Although this may sound like an unlikely situation to be in, just remember that over 30,000 employment tribunal cases were raised between April 2022 and March 2023.

On the positive side of things, flexible working can actually create some advantages for your practice, including:

  • Retention of valued employees in situations where fulltime/core hour working is no longer possible.
  • A more motivated and loyal workforce – employees who have working hours tailored to suit them are more likely to want to stay with you.
  • An opportunity to tailor the number of staff you have at work at any time to your patient/workload demands. For example, fewer staff over a longer opening period.
  • Encourages employees to have a healthy work-life balance, which contributes towards their wellbeing.
Importance of Work-life Balance

Work-life balance refers to an employee prioritising and differentiating between their professional life and personal life. This can look different for each individual; some employees may prefer to focus on high earnings and travel to exotic locations twice a year to disconnect. Others appreciate regular breaks, and more flexibility that will allow them to focus more on family time. The ultimate goal is for your employees to feel equally fulfilled by both their professional and personal life.

So, why is a work-life balance so important?

  • Health: If the time employees dedicate to their work drastically reduces any personal time they have, this can negatively impact their physical and mental health. Employee burnout is something that is extremely common within the healthcare sector.
  • Wellbeing: In an economy that has become more challenging, employees’ wellbeing can hold the keep to their productivity and success.
  • Priorities: A study by Ranstad reported that 65% of job seekers prioritised work-life balance over pay and benefits.
  • Hustle Culture: The emergence of ‘hustle culture’ has led to a de-prioritisation of work-life balance for some employees.
How Can Improvements to Work-life Balance Benefit Your Practice?
By encouraging and supporting employees to improve their work-life balance, you can see direct benefits for your workplace:
  • Lower levels of absence relating to sickness and stress.
  • Improved attitudes resulting in a more dedicated, optimistic and productive workforce.
  • Employees who feel supported by their line manager are 3.4 times more likely to feel engaged at work.
  • A healthy work-life balance helps to ensure that employees at content at work. Employees that feel content in their jobs are less likely to leave.
  • Can improve your reputation as a practice that looks after its staff, attracting more top talent.

In Conclusion:

In conclusion, the changes to flexible working regulations underscore the significance of maintaining a work-life balance, particularly within high-stress industries such as medical or dental practices. The amended regulations, effective from April 2024, provide employees with enhanced rights to request flexible working while placing new obligations on employers to promptly address such requests. This shift not only aligns with the evolving workforce dynamics but also necessitates a proactive approach from practices to update their policies and embrace the potential benefits of flexible working.

Furthermore, the emphasis on work-life balance stems from its profound impact on employee health, wellbeing, and overall productivity. Encouraging and facilitating an improved work-life balance can yield tangible advantages for practices, including reduced absenteeism, enhanced employee engagement, and a positive reputation as an employer of choice.

If you feel that your practice would benefit from some extra support, whether that be reviewing your current employment policies or just chatting through a current issue, then do not hesitate to reach out to Croner as part of your MPS membership. Their expert consultants can be reached on 0844 561 8133 or you can email [email protected].

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