HRLegal Newsletter May 2022: Bold Approaches: Why Businesses Are Being Brave About Flexibility…

Welcome to the May edition of the HRLegal Newsletter. This monthly collection of focused features seeks to keep readers abreast of all updates in the quickly developing world of human resources and employment law. As we enter a new world and way of working, HRLegal is at hand for all advice in relation to all things people and HR. Our responsive and personable team of experts are available by phone, email and via our social media channels for any support they can provide. 

Read on for explainers and features compiled by our experts, Una Clifford, Bláthnaid Evans and James Condon. For more on how we can assist your business, visit www.hrlegal.ie. 

Bold approaches: Why businesses are being brave about flexibility…

James Condon, HR Business Partner

In this edition of the HRLegal Newsletter, we highlight the growing trend of our clients expanding on their ‘flexibility’ offerings to their staff. Flexibility no longer just means being comfortable with less days in the office, employees now seem to want and expect much more than this. In a previous article, we discussed the key HR learnings from 2021 and outlined that “a new era of new ways of working, flexibility and increased employee expectations is here to stay, and businesses need to adapt, or risk being left behind. Flexibility and remote/hybrid working will remain as part of the new world of working long after the pandemic ends”.

Interestingly the pace of change with regards to flexibility has somewhat surprised us. It appears that businesses are learning very quickly that we really are in a new world and that the power dynamic has swung considerably towards the employee. Many businesses are now examining their current employee offerings and building in more flexibility wherever possible. Businesses seem to be waking up to the fact that providing flexibility in terms of work location, benefits and employee preferences can provide protection when trying to retain employees. Businesses are getting braver with their flexibility offerings, and some are already starting to see the reward. 

Working hours and annual leave
HRLegal has seen many clients take bold steps with their working hours and annual leave policies recently. Some of HRLegal’s clients have introduced some ‘talent retention’ policies around summer leave whereby the employee can work for up to eight (!) weeks abroad. Some other businesses have introduced new policies around summertime leave which may not go quite as far but do provide for greater freedom of choice on where when and how to work. As many employees have evolved into hybrid, remote or flexible working patterns, some of our clients’ received queries on whether this may be a viable option and decided to explore how to implement this. 

We have seen businesses who for example, within that eight-week period, allow the employee to take two weeks annual leave and the rest of the time they need to simply complete their standard working week at hours and times that suit them – as long as the needs of the business are met.  This has been viewed very positively by people in support roles for example – where they can go to France or move around Ireland for the summer months, spend more time with their kids, and perhaps work from 7am – 11am and again then from 4pm -8pm, for example.   Our sense of this is that such a level of flexibility will serve as a huge talent attraction/retention tool, in particular for those with small children or for the millennial cohort who still yearn for travel and lifestyle choice.  This can be a difficult one for employers to manage and compete with in the talent war we are currently experiencing.  

Issues
Obvious problems for employers include – 

– Managing the performance of an employee who may be more in “holiday mode” engagement.
– Dealing with multiple requests from staff wishing to avail of the time away from the office at the same time.
– Maintaining some work culture during this period.
– Managing expectations of those for whom this option is just not suitable.
– Complying with working time legislation such as the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997

The “trust” factor
Employers need to consider the “trust” factor in evaluating whether a policy such as this is suitable for their business.  One needs to balance the commercial reality of running a business with introducing policies that are “innovative” and where you may have staff looking for their introduction.  Employers should never try and be the “Google” of their sector if that doesn’t suit their business – pay your staff well, trust them, treat them well and you will come a long way on the road to retaining them – these flexible holiday type policies will be effective in some sectors but not all.   

Additionally, there may be other options for businesses who are looking to explore increased flexibility for their employees. Many of our clients are also revamping their employee benefit offerings. It appears that more and more businesses are starting to understand that the traditional offering of pension contributions and healthcare may not be what every employee wants or requires. Generational differences in the workplace now mean that there can be up to 5 generations in a workforce. Exploring the option of a flexible benefits offering or a ‘menu’ can be very useful and can actually be cost effective. Employees at different stages of life may have various preferences and being able to tailor to them can be relatively easy. HRLegal has seen many of its clients use the menu approach recently and employees have provided great feedback. There are many different approaches to this and a well-designed policy is key. The personalisation of a benefits offering and the flexibility it offers can provide just as much support in retaining key employees.  

If your business is looking for advice around new working practices, retention strategies or would like to discuss any of the items mentioned, please visit www.hrlegal.ie.  

Quick clicks

Social media is a great way for HRLegal to engage with HR-related conversations globally and brief our followers with explainers on the more perplexing, intriguing, or newsworthy issues on the topic.

Have a look at some of our latest social media updates:  

“Employee engagement” is a concept cited frequently among our clients as an issue that leads to attrition in their businesses. Our experts provided a formula for a great employee engagement strategy in just five steps

In recent weeks, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about Ireland’s new Work-Life Balance Bill. HRLegal summed up the need-to-know takeaways from the bill in a short explainer video.

A much-needed bank holiday break served as an opportunity to many tired teams across Ireland last week. Don’t forget to rest your trusty workforce!

For regular topical updates like these, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.