Ten recommendations to make flexible working work for employers

Following our surveys into employer and employee attitudes to maternity and the workplace, we've drawn up 10 recommendations for making flexible working better for everyone, based on the wisdom of Mumsnetters

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1. Make it OK to ask

Cultivate a culture in which it's OK to ask for flexible working without prejudice - even if the answer may sometimes be 'no'.

2. Be flexible about flexibility

Be open to changing patterns. Parents with pre-schoolers may prefer to work compressed hours (some longer days with other days completely at home); people with school-age children may prefer short days to allow for school runs and the post-school catch-up with their kids. Others may need different patterns depending on whether it's term time or school holidays.

3. Let men be parents, too

Look at your paternity pay and leave offering: can it be improved in the light of the introduction of Shared Parental Leave? The data shows that men worry about asking for flexible working and parental leave even more than women; be proactive, and offer reassurance that their careers won't suffer.

4. Be upfront

If you'd be prepared to consider something (eg enhanced paternity pay for longer periods) say so upfront - don't make people guess. Email your staff to remind them of key policies; mention in job ads that you're open to job shares and flexibility.

5. Focus on educating and supporting line managers and middle managers

Line managers are a company's gatekeepers. You may have great policies, but are all your managers on board - or are they filibustering because they're not sure what to do? Keep a dossier of things that have worked well - working patterns, unpaid leave, ways of addressing returners - and share it with managers; make it part of your institutional knowledge. Consider having a portfolio of flexible working patterns that are open to everyone, and make sure people know they exist. Be proactive: check in with line managers, ask how they're dealing with requests.

6. Focus on returners

Mentoring, return-to-work seminars, properly planned KIT days, confidence-boosting sessions, buddy supporters, training packages: when it comes to reintegrating returning parents, it pays to go above and beyond.

7. Have role models

Let people see senior employees and directors working flexibly and taking parental leave - without their careers juddering to a halt.

8. Be innovative

Could you offer staff the option to 'buy' additional leave? Could you switch from a 'working hours' culture to measurement by results? Could you band together with other local employers to commission a subsidised holiday play scheme (as some government departments do in Whitehall)? Could meetings be scheduled only in 'core' schooltime hours? Could you even ditch the 9-5 completely? What could work for you?

9. Flex for all

Restricting flexibility to parents or carers fosters resentment; can you open it up to all your workers?

10. Measure, analyse, learn, adjust

Do you know how many people work flexibly in your firm, how many dads take statutory paternity leave, or which teams are particularly good at reintegrating returners? Do you know whether teams with lots of flex workers do particularly well against targets? Do you know which managers approve lots of flex working requests, and which don't? If you track and analyse, you could learn valuable lessons about what works for your business, and do more of the good stuff.

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Last updated: 5 months ago