Supporting Flexible Working

To attract – and retain – the very best people at Newcastle Hospitals,
it’s really important that staff feel supported to work flexibly.

#FlexibleWorking

We all spend a lot of time at work.

For many, having a 9-5 office job or working a traditional shift is no longer the norm, as people balance their busy roles with childcare responsibilities or caring for elderly parents, as well as juggling a range of other activities outside of the Trust.

Providing an environment where staff can flourish and have the flexibility to take care of their own health and wellbeing and feel supported in how they work, is more important than ever, during these unprecedented times and remains a top priority for the Trust.

We have seen a lot of changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which have had a positive impact on flexibility at work, supporting our staff wellbeing and have enabled staff to try new ways of working.

We have listened to staff feedback and reviewed and improved our flexible working arrangements to further support a healthy work-life balance for our staff and their families.

Easier access and use of technology including improvements to our WIFI infrastructure has ensured staff can successfully work in a more flexible and agile way – whether from home, participating in e-meetings, or increasing use of apps or on-line links to access systems (e.g. Employee Online/Allocate or ESR) and information.

Staff have proactively demonstrated their desire to use technology and embrace digital to manage their working arrangements and hours, deliver service needs and access learning and education.

There are many flexible working options available and we are positively encouraging staff to initiate discussion with line managers or supervisor to explore how you might work differently. We know service needs are the priority but working differently might also have a positive impact on your team and colleagues and the way in which you deliver your service.

The options include:
– Informally having the flexibility to finish early or start a bit later on occasions
– Reducing your working hours to less than full time with variable hours
– Work from home or agilely from other sites or locations
– Discussing with your line manager about creative ways you can fulfill your role whilst working in a different way
– Taking reasonable time off to attend medical appointments
– Requesting compassionate and/or bereavement leave for ‘loved ones’.
– Taking a career break, whether you want to travel the world or care for a dependant person

There are benefits for everyone in doing this. As an employer it helps us to recruit – and retain – the best people and can also bring huge reward in terms of engagement and productivity.

It’s also so much more than reducing hours or occasionally making changes to a role. It’s about how we can support staff through bereavement, changes in family circumstances, health issues, stress, career breaks, job sharing or looking at different ways of working.
Of course our patients come first and there will always be a pressure of balancing individuals’ needs with keeping services running.

What we’re asking for is leaders, managers and teams to be open to flexible working so we can offer a fair and consistent approach right across the organisation.

We’ve created a handy flexible guide to flexible working which you can download below.

Flexible working requests

…arent just about reducing working hours! There are other options available such as changes to a working pattern, compressed hours, working days and ‘variable time working’ where staff can reduce working hours for a specific period. We know that flexible working can help recruit and retain staff who otherwise might leave, as well as supporting service continuity.

Flexible retirement

This is a really valuable option for both staff and the Trust. For staff it provides the opportunity to work differently – perhaps working fewer hours, their working pattern or nature of their work. The NHS Pension Scheme has become more flexible to support staff, and for the Trust it means that we retain some key skills and experience as well as assisting in our succession planning to support an orderly transition or handover.

Job share

… is normally where two employees share a single full-time post and can be a useful option to provide a good work/life flow. This can also help to increase productivity and create positive working relationships to benefit our services.

Career breaks

The Trust offers career breaks for staff who may wish to seek a longer term break from their current role. Some examples where career breaks can be requested include:

  • childcare commitments
  • care of a dependent person
  • further relevant education and/or training
  • relevant work abroad and charitable work that could broaden experience
  • preparation for retirement

Annualised / term-time hours

This is an option available for staff who may wish to take extended unpaid leave to coincide with school holidays. Annual salary is paid monthly in twelve equal amounts on a pro rata basis. With growing child-care costs this option can provide supportive flexibility to working parents who may be struggling to balance work and family life.

Staff bank

The Trust’s staff bank service provides options to work shifts on an as-and-when basis providing increased flexibility. Many of our staff are also registered as bank workers as it provides additional income and experience in different working environments. Short term and long term placements are also available which helps to support substantive staffing shortages and reduces reliance on agency working.

Communication

Communication is key to getting flexibility at work right. It’s those informal conversations and agreements which make the most difference to our daily lives. Being able to change how we work our hours to make sure we can pick up the kids from school or even just being able to attend our medical appointment without worrying about how long it is taking. We encourage all staff to have positive conversations to enable and support flexible working – and feel free to think creatively about options that may work.

Agile working

Our Agile Working Policy empowers staff to work with greater flexibility.

The policy offers guidance around working practice including homeworking, teleworking and working from an alternative site.

Agile working supports a more flexible approach to work and can also provide other benefits also offering benefits such as potential cost reduction through reduced travel time/costs (i.e. homeworking on occasions of adverse weather and major travel disruption) as well as potential improvements in staff wellbeing, morale and productivity.

Case studies

Helen Knight

On 1 September 2019 I begin my 12-month career break and a once in a lifetime journey. I’ve booked a one-way flight to India so the rest of my year is yet to be decided! Other than making sure I do some yoga, surfing and visit a few sandy beaches I’ll plan my trip as I go along, picking new things to try in every new country.

Since joining the Trust in 2007, I’ve worked hard to progress my career, studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in medical imaging and becoming a lead radiographer. Before the next stage of my career, I feel that now is the time to take some time away to develop my non-clinical skills to help me progress. I hope to return to work refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.

Dani Colvin-Laws

Given the nature of her role, Staff Engagement & Experience Officer Dani Colvin-Laws has successfully made use of our new agile working policy, benefitting both her and the team she works with.

After suffering a knee injury which was preventing her from physically travelling to work, Dani asked if she could work from home as part of the new policy. By using her work laptop and other innovative tools such as StarLeaf to stay connected, Dani was still able to dial into meetings, share documents and actually increased her output and productivity during this period.

“It was fantastic that I was supported and given the flexibility to work from home when I sustained my injury,” she said.

“This meant that the delivery of my projects would not suffer, service in our small team would be maintained and most importantly, it prevented me from having to take sickness absence.”

Matron – Aileen Burn
Under the Trust’s flexible working policy, Aileen successfully applied to work condensed hours a few months ago.

“My reasons for the request related primarily to a change in personal circumstances so I was very grateful to the Trust, senior nursing management and my directorate for supporting me,” she said.

“I only started the new working arrangements a few weeks ago but a real positive of the new working patterns is that it gives the chance for excellent colleagues to develop their leadership skills.”

 

Alice Gair – Children’s Occupational Therapist
Having my flexible working request approved in order to work longer days and carry over my accrued annual leave from last year has been really important for myself and my husband not only to facilitate childcare but because my child was born with some congenital anomalies that have and will continue to require several medical reviews and procedures. Becoming a mother can be challenging for many women, but after the issues that my son was born with I was really impacted during the early months in how I felt in myself but also in my relationship with my baby. I recognised that moving forward I wanted to ensure I had quality time in my role as a mother, to be able to care for him myself and also be able to carry on in my career that I love. The flexible working has also helped me to feel like my role as a Children’s Occupational Therapist is valued by allowing me to do what I love without having to sacrifice as much time as I might have had to do in order to balance it with being a mother and spending positive time with my little boy.

Nicola McGreevy – Senior Sister

“When Coronavirus first hit, I was in the early stages of my pregnancy. A risk assessment was carried out by my Matron which led to further discussions with the directorate management team regarding my circumstances and we agreed for me to work from home with a laptop and work mobile phone.

I had never worked from home before so I was unsure at first how effectively I could run a ward from home and how it would initially work. I was very conscious I wanted to be there to support my staff so they did not feel abandoned during a difficult period. I needed to ensure I could still do my job effectively from home whilst also protecting myself whilst pregnant.

With the input of my two Junior Sisters and Matron we came up with a plan of action and it was agreed I would carry out all the additional office jobs (which required the sisters to take time out from the ward to do) from my home. This meant the Junior Sisters could spend more time out on the ward providing visual support to the staff. It was also agreed I would take on additional jobs from the Matron in order to help support their role too.

Throughout my time working from home I have felt safe, supported and satisfied I have done a thorough job supporting staff and ensuring the ward is run safely. My staff, in turn, have been fully supportive of me working from home – they know they can get in touch with me at any point and I have regularly kept in contact with them over the phone.

I feel my time at home has been successful as not only have I learnt new skills through this experience but I have also received positive feedback from staff on the ward. I know I have helped keep on top of the wards workload whilst also ensuring that I am supporting my Matron at the same time.”

David McClinton (Nicola’s Matron):

‘Nicola has been immensely helpful whilst she has been working from home and has really taken to the role. We have identified that a good majority of the work that is undertaken by the Ward Manager can be completed remotely, including but not limited to appraisals, sickness reviews, performance reviews, answering and reviewing complaints or areas of concerns from patients/relatives or staff members. She has taken a lead in reviewing the Directorate incidents and developed helpful PowerPoint slides of common themes that she has noted.

At the height of COVID, she undertook a daily review of the areas for me. Highlighting patients awaiting swab results, staff who had been referred with symptoms (swab dates and predicted return dates) and also complied stock lists for PPE.’

Dental nurse Debbie Richardson

Having a term-time contract has been of great benefit to Debbie and her family as she previously had to rely on family members for childcare.

“I have been really thankful that this was an option  –  especially after having my second child – as it has given us quality family time and older family members a rest,” she said.

“Also during these holidays, there is less need for staff to cover student clinics at the Dental Hospital – being the kind of person I am, I’m always wanting to keep busy so I appreciate my time away during less busy times.

“This contract has helped both me and the service and I have never been off sick for at least 12 years as there is a planned break at least every three to four months.”

Other options

As well as all of the flexible working options you have already seen, we offer a whole lot more.

Special leave – We have a range of special leave entitlements to support staff when required. Some of them are outlined on this page – for everything else, check out our special leave policy.

Compassionate leave – Staff are able to take up to five days paid compassionate leave to come to terms with a serious illness or injury involving a loved one, a serious personal relationship problem or where an employee has carer responsibilities.

Bereavement leave – Staff are able to take up to five days paid compassionate leave if they have suffered a bereavement of a relative or loved one, or wish to be with a relative at end of life.

Child bereavement Leave – Staff are entitled to up to two weeks occupational child bereavement pay at any point up to 56 weeks following the death of their child. A bereaved parent is anyone who had responsibility as one of the primary carers for a child who is now deceased. This includes adoptive parents, legal guardians, individuals who are fostering to adopt. This may also include grandparents who had caring responsibilities for a child, or instances where someone other than the biological parent is the primary carer (this could be the case where the parents of a child have separated).

Medical appointments – Staff are able to take a reasonable time off for appointments as agreed with their line manager. This can include doctors, dentist, hospital and screening appointments. There is no longer a defined time period, this is at your manager’s discretion.

 

To read more about our policies visit our policies page

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