Making a job share work is not simply about permitting this form of flexible working arrangement to be implemented in the workplace.
Having advertised a job sharing role, or agreed to a job share request, employers must be prepared to invest the necessary time and resources in ensuring this arrangement works for both their business and employees.
Below we look at what is classed as a job share, the pros and cons of this type of working arrangement, and what employers can do to make job sharing work.
What is a job share?
A job share is a flexible working arrangement that enables two employees to work part-time schedules, albeit sharing the same role and responsibilities that one person would ordinarily undertake in a single full-time job.
In effect, a job share is a part-time contract under which two individuals are engaged to perform parts of the same job role, although the hours undertaken by each employee can vary. They may work together part of the week, or not see each other at all, being allocated entirely different shifts without any overlap.
Creating a job share can be achieved by dividing the total number of hours that need to be worked in a number of different ways. For example, the working day could be split into mornings and afternoons with the job share partners sharing these shifts, or the working week could be split into Monday-Wednesday am and Wednesday-Friday pm. The job share partners could even work alternate weeks.
What is the difference between a job share and a job split?
In theory, a job share is different to a job split, the latter being where a role is divided by identifying the different elements of the job and allocating separate duties and responsibilities to each individual according to their expertise.
That said, these phrases are often used interchangeably, where a job split is frequently described as a form of job share. There are essentially two different types of job share:
- The “twins model,” in which the job sharing employees share the same workload, or are each responsible for the same tasks, but at different times, although often with a little overlap in days;
- The “islands model,” also commonly known as a job split, in which each employee is responsible for different tasks, and works entirely or predominantly independently of one another.
The “twins model” is often the simpler and more commonly used of the two types of job share, although the best model will often depend on the nature of the job role, as well as the preferences and skills of each job sharing employee.
Pros & cons for employers of job sharing
There are various pros and cons, challenges and opportunities when employees job share. We look at some of these advantages and disadvantages for employers.
There are various potential benefits to employers when employees job share, including increased learning, mentoring and coaching opportunities for your staff through differing areas of expertise, as well as increased productivity and work output due to the wider range of skills and experience that can be created.
In many cases, two part-time employees holding one position can actually contribute more to a job role, working together, than one person in the same role. Equally, wholly independent job sharers with complementary skills can provide a cost-effective solution for employers who don’t have sufficient work or funds to hire two separate workers on a full-time basis.
The benefit to the employer is this allows them to have two employees with different specialties at little added expense, where employers can cross-train these employees so that they can cover for each other as and when needed.
The use of job shares can also lead to greater employee retention and employee engagement, where the flexibility of this type of working arrangement will often allow an individual to fit their work around other commitments, such as caring commitments or even hobbies, creating a better work/life balance all round.
There can also be certain disadvantages for employers to job sharing, both from a practical and legal perspective.
Whether a job role is advertised from the outset as a job share, or following a change to the working pattern of two existing employees, this can pose all sorts of practical problems for both your business and staff.
The job share partners will need to decide from the outset whether each will be responsible for the position at different times, or for different tasks instead. They will also need to work out how to share their workspace, computer and other equipment without encroaching on the other individual.
Even though a job share is a type of part-time working, a part-time post is typically a self-contained role. In contrast, job sharing requires effective cooperation and an element of liaison between two employees. It is also based on the formal commitment between the employees to jointly fulfil the aims and objectives of a full-time role.
This means that the job share employees must be able to work collaboratively and clearly communicate with each other, not only over work matters but also practical issues like annual leave cover. Save except where the job sharing employees work entirely independently of each other, they must be sufficiently compatible for this arrangement to work effectively.
Further, if one half of a job share partnership leaves your employment, you will be faced with the difficult task of advertising the remaining unfilled portion of a job as a part-time position, and finding another job share partner who not only wants to work part-time, but is likely to work well with any existing employee.
A job share arrangement can also pose a number of legal issues that must be given due consideration, preferably from the outset.
Under this type of flexible working arrangement, the pay and other contractual entitlements are allocated to each job share employee on a pro rata basis. That said, each of the employees must be treated as an individual in respect of their statutory and contractual rights and responsibilities.
In some cases, this can result in additional cost implications associated with their individual employment rights. Further, as a part-time worker, job share employees should not normally be treated less favourably than their full-time counterparts by reason of working fewer contracted hours.
This means that part-time workers should, with certain exceptions, receive the pro rata equivalent to the same contractual rights and entitlements as a comparable full-time worker. This can include, for example, salary rates, sick pay, annual leave, any form of parental leave, and selection for redundancy.
Less favourable treatment can, in limited circumstances, be justified on objective grounds, although you would need to show both that the reason for the difference in treatment is necessary to achieve a legitimate aim ‘and’ is the most appropriate way to meet a genuine business need.
Does an employer have to agree to a job share arrangement?
In some cases, a job may be advertised from the outset as a job share. In others, an existing employee may be looking for a more flexible working arrangement.
As an employer, you do not have to grant an employee a job share arrangement, especially given that this involves the cooperation and agreement of two members of staff. However, an employee is entitled to make a flexible working request where they have worked for you continuously for at least 26 weeks.
This request must be considered in a reasonable manner and should only be refused if there is a good business reason for so doing, especially where two employees have already identified each other as suitable job share partners and agreed in advance how they will split their working hours.
Given that the job role will still be covered in full, albeit by two different employees, you may be limited as to the basis upon which a job share can be reasonably refused, although some roles may simply not be suitable for job sharing or create too many cost implications for your business.
Practical advice for employers
Job sharing can be very rewarding for both your business and the employees involved, but for this type of flexible working arrangement to work it will require a degree of flexibility and trust, as well as good teamwork and management.
The following practical tips for employers can help you to effectively manage and maintain productive and successful job share arrangements:
- Determine from the outset how to divide up the work, preferably involving the job share employees in this process so that mutual agreement can be reached. For many employees seeking a part-time role of this nature, they will have caring or other commitments that they must work around. The division of work and responsibilities may also depend on the different levels of experience or skills of each individual.
- Ensure that your job share employees have clear expectations as to how the arrangement will work in practice. This should be set out in writing by way of a job share agreement, including what times will be worked, what tasks will be undertaken by each employee, how any handovers will work and how disagreements will be handled.
- Clearly demonstrate your own commitment and support for the job share arrangement as an employer, in this way helping to encourage and motivate the employees in their new partnership role. For successful job sharing, there must be a genuine commitment from both management and job sharing partners to make the arrangement work.
- Ensure that your job share employees have good levels of communication, both with each other and with management. This should involve regular updates all round, for example, ensuring that they communicate with you how they are coordinating their work where appropriate.
- When interviewing candidates for a job share, or agreeing to a job share request, you should focus on the team-working skills in the prospective job sharing partnership in order to judge the strengths and weaknesses that they bring as a pair. This will enable you to make an informed decision as to their compatibility and the likelihood of success.
- Conduct regular reviews of the job share arrangement, providing a degree of flexibility where any adjustments need to be made. In some cases, you may need to allow the employees to experiment with the arrangement to see what works best before agreeing on any defined working pattern.
A job share arrangement can present various practical and legal challenges for both employers and employees. However, with the right approach and the right partnership – where the two job share employees are willing to cooperate, communicate and, where necessary, compromise – you can create a highly beneficial working arrangement for everyone involved.
DavidsonMorris’ specialists in HR can help with all aspects of workforce management, including adoption of flexible working practices such as job shares. Working closely with our employment lawyers, we provide comprehensive advice on the options open to you as an employer and practical support through discussions with relevant employees. For help and advice, speak to our experts.
Job Share FAQs
How does a job share work?
A job share works by two employees sharing the same role and responsibilities that one person would ordinarily undertake in a single full-time job, but on a part-time basis. This is typically done by dividing the total number of hours that need to be worked in a number of different ways, for example, working mornings or afternoon shifts, working half the week each or working alternate weeks.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of job sharing?
There are various advantages and disadvantages of job sharing, for both an employer and employees. This could include increased productivity due to the wider range of skills and experience provided by two employees, as well as increased employee engagement and retention by allowing staff a degree of flexibility in their working commitments.
What is the difference between job share and part time?
A job share is a type of part-time working that requires cooperation and liaison between two employees. It is also based on the formal commitment between the employees to jointly fulfil the aims and objectives of a full-time role. In contrast, part-time working is typically a self-contained role.
Last updated: 29 June 2020