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Published: 25 Aug 2017

Henmans LLP, Finalist 2012, The Lexington Gray Best for Flexible Working Award

Henmans LLP is a law firm based in Oxford, employing 123 people. The initial impetus for flexible working began before 2000, when two partners reduced their hours to better fit in with family life. This started in train a process which led the firm to challenge the belief that lawyers needed to spend 10 hours a day at their desks, and to make work-life balance possible for all staff.

When the firm relocated five years ago this provided an opportunity to deploy flexible working on a widespread basis. The motivation was to help staff avoid travelling in congested peak times, and also arrange their hours in a way which suited their family life. A core hours scheme was introduced, supplemented with the ability to work from home on an ad hoc basis. Several staff work at home a few days each week on a regular basis as this fits their own personal circumstances well. Staff are encouraged to make use of the flexibility on offer to take time to attend school plays, sports days and other important family events.

All staff have the right to request flexible working, which has had a positive effect of embedding flexible culture. Requests are carefully considered and if a request cannot be met in its original form, a compromise will always be found; Henmans have not yet turned down any requests to work flexibly.

The firm has worked to ensure that a long hours culture has not developed. Most staff have usually left the office by 6pm, and only in exceptional circumstances will evening or weekend working be required. An understanding of the needs of realistic time planning are evident in the way that Henmans allows expanded lunch hours following their relocation to an out-of-town centre office. They understood that staff who had previously been able to run quick errands and do some shopping at lunch time would now need additional time to travel to the town centre. By increasing the lunchtime ‘slot’ to two hours they ensured that staff were still able to do this.

Examples of the flexible approach at Henmans included arranging a reduction in hours for an employee whose husband changed jobs and could no longer cover childcare, and allowing a mother whose child has health problems to significantly reduce their hours to three mornings a week. In both instances the organisation felt that retaining their skills and experience were of paramount importance.