Flexible Working

Flexible Working

Case study: Making flexible working work

Susan has worked full-time at Briggs the Bakers for the last 10 years. Briggs’ manufacturing process is in operation 24 hours a day. They operate a three shift system, each lasting eight hours. Full-time staff work a 40 hour week, worked over five days out of seven.

Around a quarter of the workforce are mothers of young and school-aged children. There has been a long standing, informal arrangement in place that these staff are put on the rota to work the 7am-3pm shift, Monday to Friday, as this allows them to fit work around their childcare commitments. The remaining staff work more unsocial hours, including late shifts, nights and weekends. Most staff are generally accepting of this arrangement, and are paid an additional premium for these shifts.

Susan’s mum, Agnes, was diagnosed with dementia a year ago, and her condition is deteriorating. Increasingly worried about her mum’s wellbeing, Susan decided that Agnes should move in with her and her husband, John. The couple’s individual shift patterns mean that there would always be someone at home with Agnes.

John works at an engineering company which has recently undergone restructuring, and as a result, his hours have been changed. His hours of work would now coincide with Susan’s at the weekend, and Agnes would often be left alone for hours at a time.

Susan makes a flexible working request for a change to her hours. Susan has asked that she be able to work her 40 hours between Monday and Friday, as she is needed to look after her mum at weekends while her husband works.

After consideration, the floor manager decides to refuse Susan’s request on the grounds that ‘the business is not able to reorganise work among existing staff’. While the majority of staff are happy to work unsocial hours, she already struggles at times to get staff to work the weekend shifts, particularly during holidays and in the summer.

After further discussion, Susan and the manager reach a compromise. Although she needs to be at home during the day at weekends, she will be able to work nightshift, once John returns from work. This means she will still be available for weekend working, but her shifts at weekend will be confined to nights. They both agree that this will be a permanent arrangement.

Flexible working can be part of a formalised arrangement, as in the case with Susan. It can also be informal, as is the case with the mothers of young children who have, over time, been allowed to work only weekdays to accommodate childcare arrangements.

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