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West Midlands Police Federation

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Consider the Force needs and your own when seeking flexible working

13 May 2020

Officers seeking flexible working arrangements need to take into account not only their own needs but also those of the Force when submitting their applications, and should highlight the benefits to both them and the organisation, according to the Federation’s personnel lead.

Cliff Tomkinson says anyone considering applying for a flexible working pattern should have an informal conversation with their first-line supervisor first.

“This should always be the starting point as it can highlight where there might be difficulties,” Cliff explains, “The next stage should be to consider the impact any change to working arrangements could have on pay, pension and leave entitlements and also to read the Force’s Flexible Working Policy which is available on the intranet, along with the application form.

“Officers should then identify why they need to work flexibly, and this is a really crucial part of the application process, along with a consideration of what the Force’s needs are. This can vary considerably. For example, perhaps you are in a role where there is a lot of liaison with a local authority that generally operates between 8am and 4pm which would mean an officer would also need to be around at those times too.”

But he advises officers not to be inflexible themselves.

“Officers need to be prepared to compromise and this can be a critical area where some fall down,” says Cliff, “Officers need to consider where there could be some leeway in their application, and the Force too needs to consider if it can make compromises too. Ultimately, If the Force refuses a request then it has to be justified. The more reasonable the request the more difficult to refuse.

“Where an officer is in a relationship with another officer perhaps initially only one will apply for a flexible working pattern but that may not be completely acceptable due to the Force’s needs so maybe the solution is for both officers to apply for flexible working arrangements that complement each other. Or maybe officers need to consider that they might have to change roles so the Force can accommodate their needs to work flexibly.”

Cliff also suggests that officers planning to come back to work after family leave submit their applications to work flexibly at least three months before their scheduled return date. The more time given to consider the application, the less stressful it will become when having to arrange childcare around any agreed shift pattern.

Once an application has been submitted, Cliff recommends that officers seek a meeting with their line manager so that any concerns, from either side, can be discussed.

“If an issue is identified, this could be the time for a member to seek advice from their Federation workplace representative or the Federation officials,” says Cliff, “The aim should always be to balance the needs of the individual and those of the Force concerned and this will always be part of the decision-making process."

“A line manager will have to give their rationale for refusing a request for flexible working and, if necessary, this may then be passed first to a second line manager, who again will have to explain their reasoning if they turn down an application, and, eventually maybe Workforce Strategy will consider the case. It is critical that officers complete the relevant paperwork and ensure that it is submitted in accordance with the Force's Flexible Working Policy."

“Should the request not be accepted locally, the officer can then make a final appeal which will be heard by a senior HR manager and SLT member not connected with the application. The Federation can and will support on this matter."

Timescales for the process are clearly set out in the application form, with any possible claims under equality legislation having to be made within three months minus a day. Therefore, it is important that if an officer thinks the refusal of an application is not justified, advice is taken from the Police Federation on the matter.

Officers are also reminded that they can make as many flexible working applications as they want since the needs of their role can vary according to where they are posted. Any agreed flexible working request can be reviewed after 12 months.

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July 2020
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