The NHS Staff Council has announced a new deal that includes the right to request flexible working arrangements from the first day staff are employed in the NHS. Previously, staff had to be employed for six months before they could make this request. The provisions will apply in England, Scotland and Wales, with similar measures expected to follow in Northern Ireland.
Poor work-life balance is often given as a key reason for employees wanting to leave the health service. This agreement is expected to help recruit and retain health care staff at a time when the extra demands of the pandemic have left staff exhausted with many re-evaluating their priorities and considering leaving the NHS.
RCN Acting General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “We are proud to have worked with NHS Staff Council partners in securing this positive outcome for nursing staff. However, the right to request flexible working is just the first step in a major culture change necessary to ensure frontline staff, required to work 24/7, can also work flexibly.
“The pandemic has shown just how important it is to make sure nursing staff are not restricted to rigid shifts and long hours. They too must be given the time they need to rest and recover as they begin to emerge from the efforts of the last 18 months.”
From 13 September 2021 staff will be able to make an unlimited number of applications for flexible working, instead of just one a year, and submit applications without having to justify requests or provide specific reasons. In addition, they will be able to access a process where managers must refer requests that cannot be accommodated initially, to ensure all possible solutions are explored.
Employers will be expected to promote flexible options for all jobs at the recruitment stage and discuss them regularly with all staff in one-to-one meetings, team discussions and appraisals. They will also work with unions to develop, agree and offer a broader range of flexible working arrangements, and will monitor and examine what happens to requests made across organisations.