Improving Working Lives

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Flexible Working

The way we work in the workplace is currently changing. Full-time, fixed patterns are giving way to flexible employment, with part-time, flexi-time and job sharing all becoming more common. Why? Because this flexibility has been shown to work for employer and employee alike.

A flexible working pattern could be the solution to balancing family and work commitments more effectively. Flexible working opportunities benefit everyone, employers, employees and their families.  For the individual, the opportunity to work flexibly can greatly improve their ability to balance home and work responsibilities.

The West Suffolk Hospital has a range of options that enable members of staff to alter the balance between work and life away from work. The same options can also give the employer more scope and flexibility in how they staff the workplace for the changing demands of a 24 hours 365 service.

Before you decide which pattern of working is best for you, think about how it will affect your finances and career. If you reduce your hours will you still have enough income to live off? How will it affect your travelling and childcare costs? Do you need to fit around a partner's shifts or fit in with childcare? Do you need the change to be permanent or is it just for a few months?


The Trust’s workforce strategy is in line with government initiatives to improve the quality of working lives and hence improve recruitment and retention.


  • To develop employment terms to reflect the needs of the Trust which are in line with the national agenda
  • Ensure a high quality workforce in the right numbers with the appropriate skills and diversity
  • Reduce the vacancy rate and turnover
  • Improve the quality of working lives through flexibility and improved facilities
  • Develop staff involvement opportunities to reflect a more inclusive culture


The initiative to change an existing working pattern may come from members of staff or as a management strategy. In either case it should be tested against a range of criteria’s: Such as, will it …..

  • help retain staff?
  • attract staff into areas of shortage?
  • help build a more diverse range of skills within the team?
  • help balance staffing levels and activity levels more efficiently?
  • improve morale?
  • help to reduce sickness and absence rates?
  • enable staff to extend their working careers? and,
  • Does it meet the standards of a responsible employer?

There are several considerations to be made when a member of staff requests to work flexible, alternative or reduced hours outside recognised patterns, eg

  • Will a minor adjustment to existing arrangements, such as a different start or finish time meet the needs of the member of staff?
  • If the hours for one member of staff are reduced, how will the extra work be covered?
  • Is the change in the interest of the department/ward?
  • What are the implications if the request is refused?


Flexing working patterns to suit the changing circumstances of people’s lives is one important way of securing a sufficient number of effective, well-motivated employee’s. Better retention of existing staff and improved recruitment to a service that is seen to be sensitive to employee’s needs is ultimately a benefit to patients.

As working lives unfold, the needs of the employee changes, from the young worker establishing a career but has other ambitions to fulfil; to the parent of young children; during middle age some may have eldercare responsibilities; and those approaching retirement but do not want to give up work altogether.

By breaking down existing conventions of how a job should be done, and between what hours, it also becomes more feasible to deliver care in patterns that extend access for users.

Alternative Working Patterns:

  • Annualised Hours (PP(05)103)
  • Reduced Hours
  • Flexitime
  • Home Working (PP(05)095)
  • Personalised annual leave (Buying/selling annual leave) (PP(02)104)
  • Flexible retirement (PP(02)065)
  • Term Time Working (PP(05)091)
  • Career/Service Break (PP(99)092)
  • Job Sharing (PP(99)047
  • NHS Professionals
  • Team Based Self-rostering

The Employment Act 2002 introduced a new right for working parents to request to work flexibly, with effect from the 6th April 2003. Parents now have the right to request a variation to their contract to enable them to care for the child.


Employees with children under 6 (or 18 if disabled) with 26 week’s continuous service.

The variation can relate to hours, times or place of work (restricted to the employee’s home or another of the employer’s workplaces).

The employee must be the Mother, Father, Adopter, Guardian or Foster Parent of the child (or the spouse/partner of such a person and living with the child.  They must have or expect to have responsibility for bringing up the child.

Only one application can be made in any 12-month period.

Successful requests will mean a permanent change to the Contract of Employment.




For further information see PP(03)127: Flexible Working The Right to Request.