Flexible working: a new way forward to an old concept
This article provides a high level overview around flexible working, an employer and employees legislative requirements and the benefits available to those who choose to embrace flexible working. Flexible working is not a new concept however COVID-19 has had an impact on working patterns that many companies never considered or wanted to implement. The application of flexible working in the veterinary industry is not well explored, which is concerning given the health and wellbeing concerns the industry already faced prior to the pandemic. Veterinary practices being able to accommodate a flexible working request will always come down to a number of considerations such as position, type of work and the flexible working request that the employee is exploring.
Flexible working is not a new concept. However, with the unpredictable nature of 2020 and 2021, many companies have had to adapt and adopt new ways of working that they previously had never considered or not wanted to implement.
In most countries, staff in the veterinary industry—like most of the healthcare industry — were considered essential workers when countries went into lockdown. In the UK, urgent and emergency veterinary services were operating and, due to the nature of the work, were required to continue to attend work in person.
Over time, general veterinary practices in the UK transitioned towards opening to ensure that essential animal healthcare was available. Normal ways of working were adapted to ensure that social distancing practices were carried out. This may have included alternating working shifts (team bubbles) or consulting and assessing patients in car parks.
Prior to COVID-19, there was minimal research on the veterinary industry and flexible working. However, from a healthcare industry perspective, there is now further insight into how this has been implemented in practice.