Flexible Working – more procurement staff to negotiate contracts in their pyjamas?

Last week the UK introduced a new law giving employees the right to request flexible working. Parents have had this right for some time but now anyone can ask. Employers don’t have to say “yes” but they do have to explain why if they turn down the request. As the BBC said:

Every employee now has the right to request flexible working hours after the government extended the right previously reserved for carers and those looking after children. As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered "in a reasonable manner" by employers. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said 20 million people now had the right to ask to work flexibly”.

Great for employees, but as a small business owner myself, it is also one more burden on firms, particularly small firms that don’t have an HR department to handle all these workforce and legal issues. But on the other hand, in the “war for talent” that we’re all apparently part of, most good organisations would of course consider such requests positively anyway.

How will management in procurement functions respond to this? Clearly, that will depend very much on the role that the person requesting flexibility fulfills. If procurement people are working closely with stakeholders or perhaps as the procurement lead on a major outsourcing project, then it is important that they are around when their internal stakeholders and colleagues are around. Of course that doesn’t mean nine to five every single day, but it may well indicate that flexibility will be limited. You just can’t have every Friday off if that is the day of the weekly programme management meeting.

At the other extreme, for those in a highly analytical or research-based role it may not matter much when the work gets done – as long as it does. I’m a big fan of allowing people to work from home when possible (within reason and bearing in mind the stakeholder issue above). And in some cases, employees may already be working flexibly. In my experience, if you have a role where you’re dealing with suppliers or colleagues in the US, you may find your working hours extend into the evening naturally! Someone who wants to come in late might suit that situation very well.

The element that makes me slightly nervous is some personal experience some years back with a member of staff who habitually did come in late. She didn't have any carer responsibilities, or kids, and we didn’t have flexi-time in that organisation, so her behaviour caused much muttering amongst other staff. She also claimed that she stayed late to compensate, but that was not exactly obvious. In the end matters all got somewhat nasty, until she left to join a competitor (to my great relief). So my concern here is that the unscrupulous or  lazy might see this as another way to trigger a claim against their employer, or just to exploit the rules to get an easier life.

Anyway, another thing for the harassed CPO to consider. And of course, it’s not like it used to be when I were a lad. 'We used to get up half an hour before we went to bed, work twenty-nine hours a day down t' mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work ...'

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First Voice

  1. b+t:

    Why is it that working 8-4 is fine but ask for 10-6 and you’re a delinquent? Arise owls, and throttle the lark overlords with discarded ties ! (another relic for the dustbin)

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