Since this June (2014), the flexible working laws have been extended to all employees, not just those who are parents or carers. This is something that all businesses will need to be aware of.
Flexible working can be working from home, working flexible hours, working less hours, or phased retirement amongst others. The right to request flexible working has been available to parents and carers since 2003, but now anyone who has been in continuous employment for 26 weeks or more can make up to one request for flexible working per year.
What this means for employees and employers in the leisure industry is unclear. Everything depends on the type of leisure job. For many leisure employees, the job requires being in a certain place at a certain time – you can’t coach a CrossFit class in your home in the evening, when your customers are in a gym three miles away, and four hours earlier. Leisure employees have to be able to meet the specific demands of their market for at least some of the time. For example, lifeguarding – the employer has to ensure there is a minimum number of people on duty at any one time, and having essential staff coming and going as they please is not practical, or safe. It’s not unreasonable for an employer to refuse flexible working where it would mean that the demands of the business could not be met.
Flexible working laws are designed to help employees to find a balance between their work life and caring or family responsibilities, and go a long way to helping employers attract and retain the best talent. The question is how much this is practical to an industry which, on the whole, depends on front-line service delivery at a time and place to suit the customers. This, of course, is not unique to the leisure industry, but it does pose a challenge or two for those trying to manage it.
Employers need to consider each request on its own merit, while ensuring fairness among staff. For example, if you allow a female member of staff to work part-time because of having a young family, then you have to extend the same right to your male members too, even if this is something your business is not familiar with. You must show consistency in your responses to requests.
As an employer, you really should consider whether allowing some flexible working would be so bad. Flexible working can boost morale, improve productivity, and reduce employee turnover, so if you are able to grant even part of someone’s request, then you should give it serious consideration.
Look at what you can do to make your employee’s life easier. Yes, they have to be on poolside from 9am, but could you let them do their essential paperwork at home in the evening? Could your Spa Therapists do a job-share so they can both work part-time yet still provide essential cover? Is giving your Sales Manager a week off to help back at home really going to be disastrous, if it means they come back happy and appreciating the understanding employer they have?
Thank you to Nicola for sharing this advice.