Pressure grows on employers to offer flexible working

A leading employment lawyer says that businesses in the region will gain the very best workers by adopting a more flexible approach to the hours that parents work.

Simon Bond, a lawyer at Higgs & Sons, says that as large corporate firms introduce more flexible working arrangements for parents, and in particular women, this will result in smaller, regional firms being asked to do the same by their employees.

“I would encourage all firms to look at what they need to achieve as a business and try to adopt the most flexible approach possible,” says Simon.

“Recent cases, including that of Nicola Mendelsohn who takes up the top Facebook job working four days a week, will result in more people becoming aware that they can ask their employers for a more flexible approach to the working week.”

In April 2003 the Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young and disabled children to apply to work flexibly.  From April 2007 this right has been extended to cover carers of adults. An application to work flexibly can cover hours of work, times of work, place of work (as between home and place of business only) and must be taken seriously by the employer.

Nicola Mendelsohn’s new job sees her take on one of the biggest media roles in the world, as vice president of Facebook for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She will work four days a week, spending the other day with her husband and children.

“As part of their human resources planning, we would encourage employers in the region to develop strategies to accommodate flexible working. We know that this is not always possible, but in some cases the choice may be to welcome the most talented individual into the business on four days a week rather than lose out on the best candidate.”

If an employee applies for flexible working, the employer must arrange a meeting with the employee within 28 days of receiving the application to discuss the request. An employer may refuse a flexible working request only on certain, set grounds and should confirm its decision to the employee in writing. Employers who fall foul of this process risk facing claims of constructive dismissal and/or sex discrimination.

Higgs’ employment team works in partnership with businesses across the Midlands and nationally. To find out how they can support your business, call Simon on 0845 111 5050 or email