Today more than ever people are looking to the job market to provide flexibility to accommodate a variety of circumstances, rather than being fixed in a full-time position with one employer. Whether it’s having multiple jobs or being self-employed, many are choosing not to mould their lives around one role. 

Yet during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis we are seeing how little clarity some people have over their employment status – are they PAYE employees, part-time, full-time, self-employed? We now know that employment status means a lot when it comes to what help might be available. It’s true that this pandemic was unforeseen, but if crises serve any purpose, it is to remind us to prepare for the unexpected. 

So, how do you keep the benefits of flexibility and gain the security that comes with knowing where you stand? However you work, there are a few simple steps you need to take to know where you stand when you need it the most.

3 simple steps to work flexibility & job clarity

1. Negotiate 

Every new role or piece of work should begin with a negotiation, a discussion about what each side expects. In the early stages it is easy to feel grateful for the opportunity and to think that everything else can be worked out at a later date. However, this tendency to put off difficult conversations only causes uncertainty and potential conflict. 

In the absence of negotiation, what is left is  you’re left with assumption, which is often the starting point of dispute. Negotiations are not always easy conversations, but they don’t need to be exhausting either. If handled in a direct and upfront way they avoid potentially damaging conversations later. 

Make sure your future employer knows what flexibility you require and how you expect it to be accommodated. If you expect every Tuesday morning free from 10-12pm so that you can finish an online course, make sure this is expressed. 

In return, your employer should also make it clear what their expectations are. In the above example, if they are willing to accommodate Tuesday morning except when you are expected to cover Susie’s annual leave, this also needs to be expressed so that you don’t suddenly find yourself on a rota when you didn’t expect it. 

It is always good practise to put these negotiations in writing, and email is the perfect format for this. Email is impersonal, allows for a back and forth flow of dialogue, and gives a good written document of the conversation. Even if something has been discussed and is agreed in person, it is vital to send a confirmation email to sum up the agreement and acceptance. 

2. Contract

Not putting a contract in place rarely benefits you. Contracts can be as simple as one page and are easily found online. Their main requirement is that they accurately reflect what has been agreed. If you are unable to work every Thursday, then make sure the contract reflects this. Do not sign contracts that do not reflect the actual position. 

Contracts are a tool for clarity and must not be broad or vague. For example, I have seen employment contracts that state working hours from 6am to midnight Monday –Sunday. This is alarmingly broad and offers no clarity about when someone is expected to work. Contracts are a tool for clarity and must not be broad or vague. Ensure that your contract is detailed, and expectations are transparent.

Contracts are just as important for self-employed people. Retainer contracts give clarity over what services are expected and when they are to be provided. During times of crisis, such as the COVID-19, service providers with retainer contracts in place will not see their entire income vanish overnight. However small, a retainer fee acts is a regular source of income to cushion the blow.

3. Enforce

Many problems start when one side breaches the agreement but it is not addressed.

Breaches typically happen multiple times before addresses, and often come to a head when something unrelated occurs. The litany of breaches that then comes spilling out does so in a way that is not healthy to the relationship.

When part or all of an agreement is broken it needs to be dealt with immediately. During your conversation, stick to the point and only address the breach at hand – do not use it as an opportunity to try to resolve every issue you have! Done in this way the conversation will respect and support the relationship and foster future communication. 

Taking responsibility yourself to make sure these tips are followed will give you more clarity over the boundaries of your roles and reduce your stress. Less stress and uncertainty allow you to focus on what is important, doing what you do best and having the flexibility to make it fit around your lifestyle.

Make sure you know exactly what your legal responsibilities are as an employer by downloading my Employment Essentials Guide.