Job sharing: The pros and cons for small businesses

Following the election of co-leaders of the Green Party, Alan Price looks at job sharing and whether it could work in your company.

Last week Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley were elected as co-leaders of the Green Party in the first ever political job sharing arrangement in Britain. The pair called the decision a ‘pioneering’ job share arrangement which would help them both balance family and work commitments’.

As working patterns have become more flexible, job sharing has increasingly become a viable option for employees and even employers.

Planning a job sharing position

In order for such a programme to succeed, a solid plan must be put in place to ensure that the work gets done properly. Employers must pay close attention to how the system is working. Solid communication between the employer and job sharers, as well as other employees, who are not in the job-sharing programme, is a must.

Done properly, job sharing can lead to a high level of productivity, perhaps even higher than the level contributed by a single, traditional employee. The first step in implementing a job sharing programme is to decide whether the job can be shared and if there are likely candidates with whom to share it. Most often, these candidates already exist within the company, although potential job sharers can be recruited from the outside workforce.

Jobs with clearly defined individual tasks are the best to consider for job sharing. Those that are more complex have a tendency of failing under this type of arrangement. Above all, employers have to be committed to the job-sharing programme, as do the employees who are participating in it.

The advantages of job sharing

Job sharing gives employees more time off, a commodity that’s in short supply when raising a family or caring for relatives. It also offers something that part time and flexible working can’t. With job sharing, there is always someone on hand.

Job sharing offers small businesses a chance to retain valued employees who are either approaching retirement or starting families and would consider leaving if more flexible options were not made available. Job sharing can also help eliminate the need to train new employees if a valued employee were to leave the company.

Other potential benefits for the employer can include: It can bring two or more differing skill sets to one position, it can also be a useful way of avoiding compulsory redundancies, a more empowered and motivated workforce, increased staff retention and attractiveness to potential employees and reduced levels of sickness absence.

Successful job share partners are accountable to each other. This increases their accountability for accomplishments to the employer. They must plan, set goals, communicate effectively, measure accomplishments, and share the glory for successes.

The disadvantages

Job sharing also has potential disadvantages for the employer, if the two employees in the job share are not compatible they may fail to share a work style and keep co-workers and customers uninformed and uncomfortable with two approaches. Employees have to deal with the different ways in which they may do the various components of the job. In a job share, neither employee will have things his or her way. Compromise and learning new ways of working  together is required or customers and co-workers may experience confusion and uncertainty.


Overall a job share can successfully serve the employees and employers.Both employers and employees can experience job sharing initially as a challenge. But, it is definitely worth considering for the right job staffed by the right two people who are willing to compromise, get along, and communicate effectively with each other. Job sharing can seem intimidating to employers, who may fear that it could lead to confusion, more paperwork, and a host of other hassles. If a proper plan is in place and each job sharer is held accountable for his or her duties, these issues can be avoided. Applications for job sharing follow the same procedure as those for flexible working.

Alan Price is HR director at Peninsula

Further reading on employing staff

Alan Price

Alan Price

Alan Price is employment law director of Peninsula.

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Small Business HR

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