Small business see the benefits of flexible working

Many small businesses see the benefits of flexible working, despite recent Government announcements.

The Government has announced the repeal of the extension of flexible working to parents of children under 18 and plans for a moratorium on new regulations for firms employing fewer than 10 people.
However, for many small businesses flexible working has been a business benefit rather than a burden.
Melanie Bose, director of Omnium IT, said if her firm hadn’t embraced flexible working hours it might not have been as successful today as it has been.  Many of its workers are working mums with children under the age of 10.
‘’As an organisation, flexibility has allowed us to retain employees who have got a lot of skills and knowledge in the recruitment industry,’’ she said. ‘’ If we hadn’t offered flexible working, some would not have returned to work, particularly after maternity leave.’’
Omnium IT estimates 75% of its staff are working flexible hours.  Working mums aren’t the only people to benefit at the firm.  One employee in admin who is planning for retirement is using the flexible hours approach to reduce her hours gradually.
‘’The message about the benefits of flexible working for companies is beginning to be heard even if the Government is going to repeal its plans on flexibility," says Bose. "But what I feel strongly about is the lack of support financially for mothers who want to work. The Government pays lip service to supporting women going back to work, but mums need more help from tax credits and in childcare costs.  Some are actually better off not going back to part time work, so better financial help is needed.’’ 
Other small businesses which see that flexible working can boost the bottom line include Hireserve Ltd, a specialist e-recruitment technology business.

Initially they took on full time technical staff, but as they grew they realised they needed more professional staff to help with finance, human resources and publicity. However, being still fairly small, they didn’t need full-time staff.
“I was very aware that there were many well qualified professionals out there looking for flexible working, most of them women, who had the skills we needed,” said co-director Karen Ovenden. “We wanted someone to fit the business’s needs, but also I felt very strongly that there are so many women out there who are exceptionally good workers and committed but cannot find positions where they could have a career and be with their children.”
She adds: "It is not rocket science to make it work. If you find the right people everyone wins. That has been our experience.”
Having had such a good experience, Karen is “amazed” more companies don’t embrace flexible working.
Hr180, which won last year’s Top Employer Award for SMEs, is also reaping the benefits of flexible working.
The HR consultancy is a microbusiness and most members of staff are working mums. Everyone is paid an annual salary but also operates a timesheet system so that if they do more hours one day they can take them off on other days if there are emergencies. “It’s flexible and fair,” says managing director Claire Morley-Jones and means she can attract highly qualified staff with a range of experience. "We hope to be able to act as advocates for the business case for this way of working," she says. "It does improve your bottom line and means you have more productive, engaged staff.”

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