Flexible working

Flexible working seems to be a hot topic at the moment, whether it’s to juggle work with other commitments, or to achieve a better work/life balance. People have moved beyond the days of being a wage-slave, and have realised that free time is often more valuable to them than a high salary.

Some employers do have policies to consider and accommodate requests if they can. However that flexibility doesn’t seem to get translated into staff recruitment. When it comes to professional people (with the possible exception of public sector employees) every job advertised seems to be for a full-time role. If you do a job search for part-time work, the only offerings will be low-paid sales, admin, or hospitality jobs. Nobody advertises for a part-time Project Manager!

Of course, flexible working comes in many forms. There are flexible hours or compressed hours arrangements out there, where you still work the same 35-40 hour week, but you have some freedom about the exact hours you work. Then there’s reduced hours, where you might enter into some kind of part-time or job-share agreement with your employer.

It’s these reduced hours arrangements that seem the most elusive. Some employers will make concessions for working parents, and indeed parents returning to work after parental leave are entitled to ask for a change in work patterns.

However, generally flexible hours and flexible working is generally at the discretion of individual employers, and is not covered by legislation in Ireland. 

So if you’re in a professional role, and you would prefer a 3-day week, what can you do:

  • Check if your employer has a flexible working policy. They may have one even if they don’t promote it, as some employers don’t image that anyone other than working parents would want flexible arrangements.
  • Ask your manager. If there’s no policy, your employer may still consider a reasonable request. It’s probably a good idea to meet with your manager armed with a bunch or reasons why flexible working would be good for both you and the company.
  • Keep asking. The first time you ask about it, you may be refused because the conditions to allow it might not be right. But things change over time, and there’s no harm leaving it a few months and asking again. It will give your manager more time to consider options.
  • Resign and go somewhere else. Unfortunately if you are in full-time employment, you do not have a statutory right to change to part-time work. And so, sometimes you need to vote with your feet and go and work for a more flexible employer.

Applying for a new job

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has experience of asking about flexible or part-time working hours during the recruitment process. I’m sure there must be some employers or hiring managers that would be open to it, but how would you know?

Maybe employers should include in their job adverts whether or not they are open to considering new employees at reduced hours. It would help avoid some of the uncertainty.

And maybe employers also need to reconsider their existing flexible working policies. I’ve seen some that state you can’t even apply for flexible working arrangements until you’ve completed a minimum length of service which seems overly restrictive to me.  It may well force some people to take a new job at full-time hours, against their preference, in the hope that they can try to negotiate reduced hours later.

Posted by Richard

Richard has been blogging since 2000 about technology, cycling, singing, and life in general. Follow him on Twitter.

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