Guidance on Flexible Working

By Alice Sorby, Employment Relations Advisor on 19 December 2018 Flexible Working

Flexible working is an issue that always gets people talking, it contributes to a positive work life balance which in turn benefits health and wellbeing. It also helps employers as staff are more productive and satisfied at work, so why is it something the NHS finds so difficult?

It also helps employers as staff are more productive and satisfied at work, so why is it something the NHS finds so difficult? An RCM survey showed that 76% of midwives who have left midwifery might return if there were opportunities to work flexibly. With a shortage of 3,500 midwives we can't afford to lose them due to lack of flexible working in the NHS. Maternity services operate twenty four hours a day seven days a week so in theory there should be a wide variety of shift length and patterns, e-rostering and self-rostering should also make this easy to manage. In practice however maternity units are very inflexible with many only offering twelve hour shifts and vary staff's days and hours from week to week.

We know the UK population is ageing and the number of people living with long term conditions is increasing, this is mirrored in the NHS workforce. Midwifery can be a physically demanding job and research shows that shift work can affect older workers more than younger workers. RCM members with invaluable experience tell us that they are retiring early due to lack of opportunity to work flexibly, this is a great loss to the service. We are also seeing a worrying trend of midwives aged 35-44 leaving the profession, we believe the inability to manage childcare and other caring responsibilities with a career as a midwife is contributing to this. Only one in eight areas has enough childcare available for employees like midwives and MSWs who don't work typical hours.

The RCM believes that employers should consider the benefit of granting flexible working requests to not only support the health and wellbeing of their staff but also to retain them in the NHS, we have produced guidance on the benefits and different types of flexible working which you can access here.

It isn't only the RCM and trade unions who are promoting the benefits of flexible working, NHS employers are increasingly seeing how being genuinely flexible ensures existing staff feel valued and aids the recruitment of new staff. NHS Employers have produced guidance for organisations with the business case for flexible working. You can access that guidance here.