By Richard Morris, UK CEO at global workspace provider Regus.
Changes to parental leave regulation take effect from April 2015. Smart businesses will use the changes as a springboard to demonstrate a commitment to flexibility.
April 5th 2015 ushers in significant new legislation governing the working rights of parents - Shared Parental Leave. This new employment right means that women can curtail their maternity leave to enable their partner to share it. Eligible fathers and partners will be able to request more leave from work in the first year following their child’s birth, with the option to share 50 weeks' leave and 37 weeks' pay. Similar rules will apply for adoptive parents.
Undoubtedly, the new legislation will impact working patterns. Some mothers will return to work earlier because their child’s father or their partner is taking leave in their place. Shared parental leave can also be taken in discontinuous blocks, so businesses face the prospect of staff members dropping in and out of the business for a period of time.
Every business is different, and decision-makers will need to work out the most appropriate option for each parental leave request. But certainly, flexible working should be a part of the discussion.
Flexible working enables both employee and employer alike to be more adaptable. For example, rather than travelling to the office immediately after parental leave, employers may offer new parents the option to work closer to home. Indeed, flexible working might, in some cases, provide an alternative to taking shared parental leave. The ability to avoid the commute and to work productively just a short distance from home may free-up the necessary time required to be supportive at home.
Workplace regulation continues to evolve. Rather than seeing each new ruling as burdensome, the most forward-thinking businesses should use these changes as an opportunity to develop new ways of working that impact positively on staff and the business as a whole.
We’ve put together some tops tips for implementing flexible working smoothly:
1. Make sure employees are properly kitted out. Ensure staff have access to the best and most appropriate technology to help them work efficiently when working remotely e.g. a smartphone, laptop, dongle, wi-fi or broadband access. And make sure they have IT helpdesk support if anything goes wrong.
2. Prevent staff feeling isolated if they work from home. Offer alternative workplaces such as a hotdesk in the office or workspace in a business centre as a change of scene. And encourage them to keep in touch in person at regular intervals.
3. Embrace virtual meeting time. Working flexibly needn’t mean missing out on meetings. Video and telephone conferencing technology puts remote workers ‘in the room’.
4. Trust is key. Focus less on control and obsessing over the hours that employees put in, and judge people on their output instead.