Search Launched For SMEs With Best Flexible Working

Flexible Working Experts Launch Prize For Innovative Companies


Fergal Dowling, Partner | +44 (0)121 214 5476

A new competition has been launched to find the UK small businesses that can offer the best flexible working arrangements to their staff.

The initiative has been devised by Timewise, a company that offers training and consultancy services to help companies work more flexibly.

It is seeking firms with between two and 249 employees to apply for the award, with the winner getting a £1,000 cash prize and also having a video produced explaining how they work. This production will be simultaneously hosted by Timewise and its partner

The competition is being delivered in partnership with the Business is Great campaign, the Department for Work and Pensions and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Discussing the competition, Timewise founder Karen Mattison said: "There is an unfair and outdated perception that flexible working is 'the enemy of small business' - we want to debunk that myth.

"The working world has moved on so much in the past ten years, with innovative and progressive SMEs using flexibility as a tool for attraction, retention and growth, as a matter of course."

New legislation extended the rights of employees to seek flexible working this year and employment minister Jo Swinson said this will help firms of all sizes achieve a "cultural shift towards more modern, 21st century workplaces".

These new laws provided millions of people with the right to ask for flexible working arrangements, with the burden being placed on the employer to ensure such requests are handled correctly and that any refusal can only be based on genuine business need, such as likely problems with staffing levels at times of peak demand for services.

Areas in which new flexible working arrangements may need to be considered include maternity, with the average age of working mothers getting older as women have children at later dates.

Figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics showed that, for the first time on record, the majority of babies in the UK are now born to women who are older than 30.

Expert Opinion
We support and welcome this initiative and certainly back up the suggestion that SMEs offer some of the most innovative working practices in the UK for their employees.

“At the same time though, we should not forget the strain that some flexible working laws can have on businesses and the disproportionate impact that they can have on SMEs which don’t always have a sophisticated HR function to manage the back office administration.

“The next new flexible working law to have an impact is the right to shared parental leave. This will affect employees who are due to have their baby, or adopt, after 5 April 2015. Although this is still some time away, businesses from 1 December this year could start to have requests from members of staff and SMEs will need to be prepared and know how to deal with them effectively. Despite ACAS guidance this week, there is fact still confusion about these laws and it is important that the Government provides clarity sooner rather than later.”
Fergal Dowling, Partner