A recent article in Guardian discussed the well-known, but perhaps recently less popular form of flexible working known as job sharing.
It notes that the concept is lagging behind other forms of flexibility despite higher demand for job-sharing opportunities from employees. While most companies quickly adapted their working practices to support home working in the pandemic, the same level of support is often still largely absent when it comes to employees seeking a job share. There is, it explains, a lot of expectation on job sharers themselves to make everything work from the beginning.
It’s a form of flexible working that enables two employees to work effectively part-time schedules, but sharing the same role and responsibilities that a single person would normally undertake as a single full-time job. The hours undertaken by each employee may vary, the employees may work together part of the week, or not see each other at all, on separate shifts without any overlap.
There are no end of possibilities how the hours or shifts are divided, for example, one person could do mornings and the other job share partner afternoons, or one does Monday to Wednesday morning and the other Wednesday afternoon to Friday, or they could work alternate weeks. Obviously if working shifts there are no end of possible ways of splitting the hours.
As with most forms of flexible arrangements this can help organisations with employee retention and employee engagement as it allows individuals to fit their work around other commitments, whether for caring needs or otherwise, creating a better work/life balance.
The potential benefits to employers very much depend on the job in question, but may include the fact that you could have a larger knowledge base if the employees have differing areas of expertise and therefore could increase productivity as each focuses on their range of skills and experience. Effectively you are getting twice the background experience for the cost of one full time equivalent employee. In good schemes these employees could even cover each other’s absence. However, this may require some cross-training if their skills are too different and may also depend on the reasons for the job share, if it is to allow for caring responsibilities then this may not be practicable.
Job sharing can pose all sorts of practical problems for both your business and employees. From the outset it must be decided who is responsible for the position at different times, or for different tasks. There must be consideration on how to share their workspace, whether desk and computer or any other equipment without encroaching on the belongings or individual space of the other job share employee. The job share partnership can mean a formal commitment of both to fulfil one full time roll, usually it is not as simple as two part-time positions, although in some cases this may be valid. This means there must be effective communication and cooperation between the employees, in terms of work and leave obligations.
One of the major downsides of job sharing may arise if one half of a job share partnership leaves employment. The result could be that the business is faced with the challenging task of filling the portion of a job share left, effectively a part-time position for someone who has to fit with the necessary attributes to allow them to fit and work well with the other job sharer who is the existing employee.
As a job share the pay and other contractual entitlements are allocated to each employee on a pro rata basis, essentially as part time employees with their statutory and contractual rights and responsibilities. They should receive the same contractual rights and entitlements as an equivalent full-time worker. So, this means the pro rata equivalent salary, sick pay, annual leave, all forms of parental leave, and should not be treated less favourably than their full-time employees.
All of this can effectively lead to higher costs, a simple example being training. If this is required to fulfil the job, then the cost may be double that of a single full-time employee as two people have to be trained.
As previously emphasised, as with many forms of flexible working, job sharing can help your organisation with recruitment, retention, and lead to productivity benefits - but you must be careful. There may be specific requirements for flexibility from the job share participants, there needs to be trust of their partner - all in all they become a team that must work like clockwork, fitting together harmoniously. You must ensure that the participants have clear expectations as to how the job share arrangement will work in practice. Aside from the contractual arrangements there should be a job share agreement covering all details and how any disagreements would be managed.
There should be a clear demonstration of the organisation’s commitment and support for the job share arrangement, and genuine commitment from both job sharing partners to make the arrangement work. After the job share arrangement is put in place there should be regular reviews and a degree of flexibility if any adjustments need to be made.
Determine right at the beginning how the work and hours are to be divided, if current employees that are moving to this new arrangement, then this may, and should, mean involving the employees in this process to reach a mutual agreement that will fit around other commitments.
In some roles it may involve division of responsibilities for work dependent on experience and skills of each individual (this is known as the Islands Model), in other jobs where a position, say in a production line, is simply being filled it may be just a division of time that is necessary (this is known as the Twin Model). So, responsibilities of each participants role need not be identical, equally so the hours worked. Being creative may fit better with the skills, preferences and experience of the job share partnership and could lead to a higher standard of performance overall with more motivated employees. The more complex the hours to be worked may mean that a good workforce management becomes essential to ensure understanding and compliance of required working hours.
Dependent on the role, there may be a requirement for an effective communication and handover strategy to ensure continuity in the role. This may be in terms of a handover period between each of the partners with an overlap of hours if this is appropriate or possible in terms of space. Other methods of communication whether phone or Teams conversations, a logbook, ensuring email correspondence is always sent to both parties, or use of a joint email account, can all help to ensure key issues are known and understood by all.
As in any contractual arrangement any flexibility required and hours of work should be stated, but it should also be clear about the requirement for a working relationship with their job share partner. Pay and bonus related matters must be applied individually, especially where performance is involved. Each partner should be assessed separately so each job sharer is not penalised or improved because of their partners work level.
The best action is to clearly define in the contracts of job sharers what will happen if one employee leaves the position. This could be to offer the remaining job share partner the role on a full-time basis or to make reasonable efforts to find another suitable partner. If both these options fail, then it could mean redeployment within the organisation to a comparable part time role elsewhere if available. Finally, if all else fails then it could be appropriate to terminate employment of the remaining partner. The possibility of this “nuclear option” should be made clear in the contract.
Allowing any flexible working can create more complexity in managing and understanding working time. Job sharing means the creation of shift patterns to ensure that they align with the needs of both your employees and your business. Having the right technology in place, clear processes for tracking employee time and attendance, and a focus on the employee experience will help to ensure a productive and successful workforce.
Your people are your most important asset, why not consider a Crown Workforce management system, our consultants can help you: