Flexible working models explained

From the 30th June 2014, the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees, as opposed to only being available to those with caring responsibilities as was previously the case. This leaves employers potentially facing more flexible working applications than ever before, as well as employees thinking about whether they should make a flexible working application and if they do, which model or pattern to adopt.

At this point in time, where both employer and employee are pondering all things flexible working, it is important to get some clarification about possible scenarios and options. This article explores a selection of the existing flexible working models and some of their potential benefits and pitfalls.

Part-Time Working and Job Sharing

Flexible working, of course, is not a new concept. Many people already undertake part time work or job sharing and these kinds of arrangements are very common ways of adapting the working pattern to fit individual needs.

A part time worker can be defined as a person who is paid by reference to the hours they work and, having regard to their employer’s custom and practice, works fewer hours than a comparable worker employed under the same type of contract. Job sharing is where two people perform one role.


  • Working part time and job sharing can help to prevent burn out and encourage efficiency
  • With two people working on the same job, there will be twice the amount of brainpower
  • Works for employees on all levels of seniority
  • Allows employees to juggle their personal commitments, e.g. childcare or caring for a dependant


  • The burden of additional cost, e.g. two lots of pension contributions
  • Inability to recruit additional staff on a set, inflexible complimentary job share arrangement
  • Detrimental impact on employee’s performance and difficultly sharing out role evenly


Another fairly common flexible working model is Flexitime which allows employees to vary their start and finish times, e.g. working 10am – 6pm instead of 9am – 5pm


  • Employee’s remuneration and weekly hours remain constant
  • This model is beneficial to those who have responsibilities before and after they start work for example doing the school run, or those with a long commute
  • Enables work place to be manned for a longer period of time


  • It could have a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand or work colleagues who are uncertain of employee’s variable working pattern
  • There may be health and safety implications with lone workers outside of hours

V-time (“Voluntary working- time”)

This method of flexible working is usually requested to accommodate a necessary break in the normal working pattern to pursue non work activities. Usually the employee will request a temporary dip in their hours and this will be an arrangement that exists over a clearly defined period of time with a set date to return to the regular working pattern.


  • The employee may gain additional skills and a supportive employer may encourage longer service from the employee
  • V-time could be seen as being a ‘means to an end’ style agreement
  • The employee can balance otherwise conflicting priorities, e.g. work and sporting commitment


  • Inability to reorganise work amongst other staff during period of reduced hours
  • Detrimental impact on performance

Term time working

Term time working can be available to both full time and part time staff and is a method of flexible working whereby employees complete their contractual hours in term time and their annual leave is usually taken during school holidays (sometime subject to terms imposed by the employer).


  • Provides consistency in that annual leave will not be taken at random intervals throughout the year and during term time, the employee will always be available to work
  • The proposed work pattern may compliment the employer’s peaks and troughs and produce a cost saving


  • School holidays, or the summer period in particular, may be the employer’s busiest time
  • Inability to cover work temporarily during school holidays or afford arrangement to more than one person
  • An employee will not usually be permitted to take time off during term time, e.g. leave to attend a special occasion

Annualised Hours

This is a method of flexible working whereby the employee adjusts the number of hours they work based on the rate that work is coming in. In quieter periods the employee would work fewer hours and in busier periods they would work more hours.


  • This model is beneficial in that it lessens the toll that the “peaks and troughs” nature of business takes on employers
  • During downtime employees may have the opportunity to pursue other interests


  • If salary is paid based on hours worked, it can be problematic for an employer to manage, and the employee may have difficulties given the fluctuation in wages.
  • Can be difficult to manage and ensure that an employee does not working too many hours too early on in the year, or has a large deficit of hours moving into the latter part of the year

Homeworking/ teleworking

This is a flexible working model that is becoming more and more popular as the use of information technology is gradually being incorporated into every aspect of working life. Home working is where employees work from their own homes rather than attending the office or a specific work location, whilst telework is generally defined as using information technology to enable an employee to work away from their office at any location from a “cloud based system” or “hosted desktop”.


  • Employees can work from any location, reducing travelling time and improving efficiency
  • Employees can save money on travel costs
  • Arrangement can be used on an ad-hoc or regular basis


  • It requires employees to be self motivated be able to manage their own time and to understand the health and safety risk of working from home and not feel isolated
  • It may be difficult to monitor hours worked and an employee’s availability, and employees could take advantage of the arrangement

Compressed hours

This is when the weeks work is compressed into a shorter time span. For example, an employee who usually works 40 hours over 5 days might instead work 4 days of 10 hours.


  • Employees can have a better work life balance without a reduction in salary
  • The work place may be staffed for a longer period of time during each working day


  • Long hours and fatigue could lead to inefficient working or mistakes being made
  • There may be insufficient work during the times the employee proposes to work

Overall, one major benefit of facilitating flexible working arrangements for employers is that it helps to show that employers are truly concerned for the wellbeing of their employees. In turn this can strengthen the employer-employee relationship and increase productivity and loyalty.