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How to get your preferred flexible work hours: new advice for nurses

Demonstrate to your manager the benefits of letting you work when you want but be prepared to compromise, says guidance from the NHS Staff Council
Picture sows three nurses gathered in front of a work roster, with one writing on the roster and another looking at a clipboard

Demonstrate to your manager the benefits of letting you work when you want but be prepared to compromise, says guidance from the NHS Staff Council

Managers should start from a position of saying ‘yes’ to flexible working arrangements but nurses need to demonstrate the benefits and be prepared to compromise, says new guidance.

The guidance – developed by the NHS Staff Council with NHS England and NHS Improvement and flexible working consultants Timewise – follows the introduction of new rights to request flexible working in the NHS in England and Wales.

The policy, which came into force in September last year, means NHS nurses can request flexible working from day one of their employment

Demonstrate to your manager the benefits of letting you work when you want but be prepared to compromise, says guidance from the NHS Staff Council

Picture sows three nurses gathered in front of a work roster, with one writing on the roster and another looking at a clipboard
Picture: Tim George

Managers should start from a position of saying ‘yes’ to flexible working arrangements but nurses need to demonstrate the benefits and be prepared to compromise, says new guidance.

The guidance – developed by the NHS Staff Council with NHS England and NHS Improvement and flexible working consultants Timewise – follows the introduction of new rights to request flexible working in the NHS in England and Wales.

The policy, which came into force in September last year, means NHS nurses can request flexible working from day one of their employment and make unlimited requests for any reason. However, a Nursing Standard survey earlier this year showed that some employers are struggling to implement the changes.

Find a pattern that works for you and your manager, guidance advises

While many nurses successfully secured flexible working arrangements such as reduced hours, flexi-time or working set days, others reported that their requests were being turned down flat with no proper explanation.

The new guidance, aimed both individual staff and line managers, sets out steps both can take to ensure flexible working requests are dealt with fairly and effectively.

Instead of automatically looking at why flexible working might be problematic, it says line managers should start from a position of saying yes.

However, it also makes clear that not every request will be viable, as managers must consider the health and well-being of the whole team and the need to deliver safe care.

The guidance says nurses can increase their chances of requests being accepted by being realistic about what is possible.

It stresses the need for nurses to show how their preferred way of working is a win-win for both them and their organisation. For example, starting work earlier or later could extend the time someone is available to deal with enquiries or calls.

The guidance says: ‘Being willing to compromise will make it more likely that you’ll find a pattern that works for you and your manager.’

Requesting flexible working: tips for speaking to your manager

  • Start by listing the benefits of your preferred way of working plus any concerns your manager may have and possible solutions
  • Be open to different options such as sometimes changing the days you work if your team is particularly short-staffed
  • Make a plan for communicating your availability and keeping in contact with your manager and team
  • Plan regular reviews and make sure you talk to your manager about ongoing access to formal and informal training and development

Source: Flexible Working in the NHS: A toolkit for individuals


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