Flexible working in the NHS
The pandemic has demonstrated how flexible nurses are in responding and adapting to service needs, confirming that flexible working in nursing is possible. Employers now need to react to requests from nurses who wish to work flexibly. Flexible working can create a healthy work-life balance for nurses and their families.
Flexible working supports the retention of existing staff, including those returning to work following family-related leave. The right to request flexible working is well-established, initially limited to those caring for children, then offered to those with wider caring responsibilities, and then extended further to include all qualifying employees, irrespective of their reason for seeking flexible working.
There have been changes made to the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook (NHS Employers, 2021), which came into effect on 13 September 2021. These changes give increased rights to request flexible working in England and Wales. They have gone beyond the current statutory flexible working rules, designed to give contractual force to the NHS ‘People Promise’ (NHS England/NHS Improvement, 2021), supporting the commitment to moving to flexibility as a matter of default. Similar provisions will be expected to follow in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Scotland will introduce these changes in line with its ‘Once for Scotland’ workforce policies programme (NHS Scotland, 2021).
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