Rose DJaló of EC3 Consultants examines the issues

Despite the fact that the legal right to work flexibly was significantly broadened in June 2014, to cover all “eligible employees”, an ACAS report published this month still suggested that employers are just not doing enough to support parents who would like to take an extended period of leave for parental and/or caring responsibilities.

The report found that even though employers actively encourage women to take maternity leave, they fail to make male employees aware of their entitlements. The report also showed that the take-up rate of flexible options was significantly lower for men, with 15% of fathers deciding to work part-time, compared to 59% of mothers.

To tackle the issue, ACAS has called for a cultural change within the workplace; the survey revealed that male employees are often perceived as less ambitious when they request flexible hours.

The report called for schemes to support and encourage those that decided to return to work after taking time-off and called on employers to assess flexible working requests based on their business needs and not on the employees’ reason for making the request.

Being flexible in the way employees provide their services can lead to higher productivity, staff engagement and a reduction in absence through sickness. Findings by the CIPD back up the report with 76% of firms saying that flexible working practices had a positive impact on talent retention while 73% believed it had improved employee motivation.

The CII has issued a guide titled, “Flexible Working - Making flexibility work for you” which gives a number of practical tips.Flexible working can come in many guises; different employers and sectors will have different requirements and work practices.

Employers should consider putting in place a flexible working procedure which promotes the concept of flexible working within the organisation.

Employers can better manage flexible working requests by creating the right environment where employees can be sure decisions regarding their requests will be handled objectively and fairly.