The beginning of September marks the first week back to school for many parents, or perhaps even the first school experience for their first child. Employers will inevitably have received an increasing number of requests for parental leave or adjustments to their working hours, such as coming in late and leaving work early. There also may have been some new requests for Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA).

From the perspective of retaining talented employees with parental responsibilities, clearly this is an important issue for many companies to consider. Key considerations are how they will deal with requests for FWA or adjustments to working hours, who will be in charge of approving or refusing those requests and who will be responsible for ensuring there is minimal disruption to business.

Clearly, there is a dilemma for any company, who in an ideal world would approve all requests from all employees, but the reality is that the absence of even one employee for just one day a week, could have a substantial knock-on effect for the rest of the team. It may be fair to say that graduates may have a level of flexibility which would mean that they can make up for any adjustments to their working hours by working unusual hours or sacrificing the occasional evening or weekend. However, as employees get older, family bring more responsibilities than those in the office.

As an employer, companies should regularly review their flexible working policy. The policy should clearly set out how employees should make requests, to whom and in what circumstances the employer may have to refuse. By having an understanding from the outset, it can avoid employees feeling disappointed or frustrated at the company for putting its business needs first. Employers should also regularly conduct training not just for the HR staff but for all line managers, who will commonly have the responsibility of granting one off late arrivals or early departures from work for family related obligations.

As a company grows, providing benefits also becomes more and more affordable, while the potential impact of talent and experience leaving becomes greater and greater. It’s not only about protecting the business, though. This is also about creating workplace policies that will empower employees, allow them to continue careers they have worked hard to build, and maintain a diverse workforce across age groups and throughout the hierarchy. Advances in technology mean that employees can work from just about anywhere, at any time. Offering that flexibility to employees must be respected and returned. Lastly, it goes without saying that employers should then ensure that where possible it looks for ways of granting FWA or flexible working for a happier long-lasting relationship with their employees.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group ( and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (
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