A company’s HR strategy should take into account the merits of flexible working as a way of cutting costs in a tough financial climate.

That is the suggestion from Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), who has suggested that the benefits of offering flexible working are more apparent during a recession.

Whereas previously flexible working was a tool for motivating staff and improving their work-life balance, it could know be used to cut costs and improve efficiency in the workplace, Mr Barber suggested.

Commenting on the merits of flexible working, Mr Barber said: "Unions and forward-thinking employers see it as a possible solution to coping with the downturn and saving jobs.

"Smarter working improves productivity, and businesses could further reduce costs by encouraging working from home, for example. This approach benefits staff too."

He said that far from being a hindrance to business as some employers believe, flexible working could help employees to be more organised.

A new proposed flexible working scheme at KPMG has been a huge success as close to 80 per cent of the company’s staff has applied to work a reduced, four-day week or take extended unpaid leave.