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Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Finalist 2012, The Lexington Gray Best for Flexible Working Award

At the Trust, which employs over 3,000 people, all employees have the right to request to work flexibly. However, the Trust has recognised that with employee needs constantly changing they need to develop their understanding of the policies and practices which underpin their flexible working culture. Following the creation of a role specifically designed to consider flexible working, the Trust found that there was a gap between what staff and their managers considered reasonable flexible working.

To address this, the Trust implemented a training programme to emphasise the mutual discussion elements of considering requests for flexible working. Guidance was developed to assist staff making a request, and managers received information to enable them to more confidently manage and decide requests. The Trust also undertook to monitor more closely the uptake of flexible working.

In the guidance the positive benefits of flexibility are highlighted, with examples and case studies. Staff are reminded that, as part of the procedure, managers must examine the request fully and that this is not a negative response to the request, but rather a thorough consideration of it. The guidance also helps employees think in terms of a business case when asking for a flexible working arrangement.

Managers have been supported with their own guidance, and also one-to-one coaching where general and specific matters around flexible working can be discussed with the HR specialist. This has received high praise from managers who have been able to find solutions to balancing service and team member needs through discussions about different ways of using flexibility. Where flexible working uptake is low, the Trust has proactively worked with managers to see if there are any issues around training and confidence to resolve.

The evidence of the work is paying off. In a recent staff survey, Westminster and Chelsea NHS Trusts received the highest national score amongst all similar NHS Trusts as the employer who was best at helping staff balance their work and home life.