SMEs more likely to offer flexible working than larger businesses

SMEs more likely to offer flexible working than larger businesses to reduce absenceMore SMEs than larger businesses offer flexible working as a way of reducing absences, research from industry body Group Risk Development (GRiD), suggests. The research showed that 35 percent of SMEs with up to 249 employees are actively using flexible working strategies to combat absence compared to just 23 percent of organisations with over 250 employees. Drilling down further into the detail, 38 percent of micro businesses with between 1 and 9 employees use flexible working as a means to reduce absence. Flexible working now means a lot more than allowing an employee to work from home when they are feeling under the weather, and following changes in the law in 2014, it is now an option for everyone with at least 26 weeks continuous employment to request it – not just those with children or carer responsibilities. It also includes part-time working, term-time working, job sharing, compressed hours and flexitime. A greater degree of flexibility can increase productivity and reduce burn out, particularly in stressful occupations.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “The larger the workforce, the easier it is to offer flexible working but the harder it is to monitor it. If smaller businesses are making this work as an absence-management solution though, there is no reason why larger business couldn’t do the same.”

“It’s encouraging to see small businesses employing creative ways to target absence. There also seems to be a greater propensity among SMEs to arrange return-to-work interviews for similar purposes.”

GRiD’s research also highlighted other top-ranked ways that organisations are seeking to control absence levels and improve attendance:

Method Micro business (1-9 employees)  percent SMEs (1-249 employees)  percent Big business (250+ employees)  percent
Flexible working 38 35 23
Health & wellness Promotions 11 13 32
Stress counselling 10 14 23
Return to work interviews 5 17 13
Disciplinaries for unacceptable absence 6 14 15
Employee Assistance Programme 7 11 24