Exemplar Employers Best Practice Recommendations Flexible Working

In 2007 Opportunity Now partnered with the Government Equalities Office to identify 100 Exemplar Employers who were doing innovative work to address, Occupational Segregation, Equal Pay, Flexible Working, Training and Development, and Women Returners. Today the best practice recommendations are still relavent and provide an excellent basis for developing strategies to progress the narrowing of the gender pay gap and progress workplace opportunities for women.

Best Practice Recommendations: Flexible Working
Not all these ideas will apply to every organisation, but they have been identified as best practice from the Exemplar Employer projects submitted.


  • Flexibility is needed on both sides to make flexible working work!
  • Assume any role can be done flexibly providing it is not to the detriment of the business
  • Senior commitment is essential – CEOs should review the take up of flexible working options and hold regular focus groups to listen to staff opinions
  • Make flexible working options open to the widest group of people, female and male, not only for caring responsibilities, but for out of work learning, volunteering, travelling, religious commitments, and at all stages of a career, eg, including workers approaching retirement.
  • Consider applications for flexible working on a case by case basis, balancing the needs of the organisation with staff wishes.
  • Focus on outputs rather than inputs and make flexible working a team approach.
  • Flexible working can benefit clients who may prefer to meet outside normal working hours.
  • Homeworking enables savings on rent and utilities for both small and large organisations
  • Allowing staff to work flexibly can reduce sickness rates and increase productivity, particularly where unsocial hours are required
  • Having flexible policies may enable the organisation to employ qualified staff who would not otherwise be able to work because of caring responsibilities.
  • Agree the Flexible Working Policy with trade unions.
  • Types of flexible working ■Provide the widest possible range of flexible working options: job sharing, part-time work, flexible hours, compressed working weeks, annualised hours, home working, distance working, family leave, short-term leave, employment breaks.
  • Draw up individual Flexible Hours Contracts to enable women to work the hours that best suit them and bank extra hours during busy periods or to have at least half a day between Monday and Friday for quality time with their child.
  • Set up Family Contracts to allow employees from the same family, or friends, to share and cover each other’s shifts with no prior notice, to best suit their family arrangements.
  • Consider introducing a rota for staff working together so that one is available for childcare and so that they have the same rest days.
  • Grant unpaid leave during school holidays or allow reduced hours.
  • Consider using flexible work, such as annualised hours, for project based areas.
  • Introduce a Career Break scheme to enable staff to take an unpaid break from work in the knowledge that their service continues and that they have a job to return to.

Making It Work

  • Set up a Gender Forum or use existing women’s networks to look at the barriers to flexible working and how to address them.
  • Pilot a flexible working programme to iron out problems and find the best way to make it work.
  • Carry out full evaluations of any pilot programmes to identify issues which need to be resolved before a full roll-out of the policy.
  • Review, amend and relaunch policies to encourage changes in culture regarding all varieties of flexible working.
  • Review policies and job design to maximise the use of flexible working.
  • Allow teams and individuals to tailor flexibility and mobility to suit their own needs.
  • Place the onus on line managers to provide a substantial business case if they wish to decline any requests for flexible working, rather than on the applicant to justify their reasons for requesting it.
  • Make managers accountable for embedding flexible working policies in the culture of the organisation.
  • Encourage discussion of flexible working practices at team meetings, management meetings and informal networks.
  • Provide training and support to line managers to help them with the challenge of building and managing successful flexible and/or remote teams.
  • Hold workshops to look at career development and work/life balance issues for flexible workers.
  • Share company information so that staff understand when extra help is needed and why, and can plan in advance if they need to adapt their hours.
  • Plan staff cover well in advance (months rather than weeks).
  • Set up a Parents and Carers Network to provide support for women (and men) with caring responsibilities and reduce their isolation.
  • Create a flexible working network for staff seeking support and wanting to raise issues relating to their working pattern.
  • Board members should attend flexible workers network meetings and meet directly with the Chairs from time to time to enable issues to be raised at the top.
  • Set up a network of Flexible Working Champions to build up a bank of knowledge and expertise on flexible working and to promote the policy across the organisation, offering coaching and support for staff and managers.
  • Invest in the right IT equipment and training to facilitate homeworking, including enabling staff to work on home PCs linked to the office server.
  • Set up an online jobshare register to store details of anyone looking for a jobshare partner and enable staff to search on a range of criteria for potential matches.
  • Promote job sharing at managerial levels by writing practical guidelines for job shares at this level, role modelling and raising awareness.
  • Eliminate the long hours culture, particularly at senior levels.
  • Publish guidance on long hours, explaining the disadvantages of working long hours and giving practical examples of ways to achieve a better work/life balance.
  • Diversity-proof training delivery to address flexibility issues including residential requirements, attendance times and location.
  • Local newspaper coverage of flexible working policies may help with recruitment.
  • Pro-actively recruit senior people to join the organisation on a flexible basis.
  • Ensure all new and replacement roles are advertised as open to flexible working.
  • Commission external research on how well work life balance provisions are working and draw up an action plan to address any shortcomings.
  • Measure success by monitoring turnover rates, maternity return rates, sickness absence levels.
  • Gather comprehensive data on staff working flexibly, including on an informal basis.
  • Include questions in the staff survey to monitor satisfaction levels with flexible working and work/life balance.


  • Communicate the organisation’s commitment to flexible working and actively encourage staff to take up the options.
  • Communicate the policy through roadshows, team-building workshops and manager coaching sessions.
  • Produce a Work/Life Balance Handbook for new mothers, fathers and carers at work.
  • Set up an intranet site to offer information and advice to staff and their managers on the flexible working policy, covering practical issues, such as, IT equipment, health and safety issues, plus advice on time management, stress management and countering isolation.
  • Produce a booklet of case studies of staff who have improved their work/life balance.
  • Share success stories, eg, in staff newsletters and on intranets, including promotions of women working non-standard hours, and publicise the range of options to challenge common assumptions that the only way to the top is via ever-increasing hours and decreasing flexibility.