What are the benefits to schools when allowing FW?
There can be many benefits.
Staff who are permitted to work flexibly often remain in their current school thus keeping recruitment costs down and expertise/CPD in-house, the school can recruit from a wider number of applicants if flexible working can be considered and, most importantly, the wellbeing and work-life balance of employees can be considered.
What are the drawbacks for schools?
A sensible question for school leaders to consider. If two colleagues wish to job share, an overlap period of time each week is likely to be needed for a sound transfer of information about groups' progress. This will need to be costed as part of directed time. However, it could be offset against the cost of having to recruit and train a less qualified or experienced colleague if both staff left the school as a result of their request for flexible working being refused.
Some schools (including NGHS) have a member of the leadership team who enjoys flexible working. This may seem unusual, but clarity around responsibilities and a flexible approach to flexibility (!) should work well for most school settings. More information about this can be obtained from NGHS.
Why might staff ask for Flexible Working?
There can be many reasons. Some may be long-term and some short-term. For example:
- A long-serving colleague may be wanting to retire, but will remain for a year or two on a phased retirement plan
- A colleague may need to care (long or short term) for a sick relative or a child who needs to undergo medical treatment
- A colleague may want a sabbatical or opportunity to engage in more CPD such as the SENDCO award or a Masters in Education or a post at a university or college
- A local school may be very short of expertise in a particular field (e.g. Physics or Maths) and a colleague is interested in working across a couple of schools
- Two colleagues may want to job share a position, splitting the hours either equally or disproportinately.
What types of flexible working exist?
The DFE defines a variety of flexible approaches as stated below:
The employee has different start, finish and break times.
Working full-time hours but over fewer days.
Working hours spread across the year, which may include some school closure days, or where hours vary across the year to suit the school and employee.
Working less than full-time hours. Not all teachers who work part time choose to do so. This may be linked to subject and timetabling requirements, particularly if they teach subjects for which there is low demand. Employees can work full time but still have flexible work arrangements in place.
Two or more people doing one job and splitting the hours.
Gradually reducing working hours and/or responsibilities to transition from full-time work to full-time retirement.
What does the law say about flexible working?
The Employment Rights Act 1996 introduces the formal right of employees to request flexible working following 26 weeks of continuous employment. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’.
Employees are only eligible to make a statutory request for flexible working if they have not made a request to work flexibly within the past 12 months. Employers have a responsibility to provide a response to a statutory flexible working request within three months, including the conclusion of any appeal.
The employee should submit a written application to their manager:
- stating their desired working pattern and the intended start date
- at least 3 months in advance of the proposed change
- setting out ways of mitigating the impact of the request on the school and their colleagues
- including if their request is in relation to the Equality Act, for example as a reasonable adjustment for a disability
Any request that is made and accepted will be a permanent change to the employee’s contractual terms and conditions, unless agreed otherwise. If the employer refuses the flexible working request, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. The employee may be able to submit a complaint to an employment tribunal.
For more information about making a statutory flexible working request, see the ACAS guide to the right to request flexible working.
Employees should check their organisation’s policy to ensure they follow the procedures in place for discussing their request with their line manager or head teacher.
If the school or trust does not have a flexible working policy, employees should speak to their manager about what flexible working arrangements are available to them.
(Source: DFE website)
Do employers have to consider a request?
Yes. Each request should be considered and a timely response issued.
NGHS recognises that schools may have a variety of reasons for refusing flexible working. Quite a few of these in the SEND sector relate to the impact on individual children and in the secondary sector on an inability to timetable to avoid lots of split-teacher classes. NGHS can offer practical advice and support in this regard.