The government has recently set out its plans to allow workers to ask for flexible working from the first day of their new job, as opposed to the current 26 weeks they have to wait.
Here, we look at what this means for employees and employers.
The current arrangements
According to current legislation, all employees have the right to apply for flexible working, after 26 weeks in the same job by making a statutory application.
This must be a written application outlining how they wish to work flexibly, what effect it might have on the organisation and how they can overcome any detriment, and state if they have previously made an application.
Their employer then has three months to consider their proposals and decide whether to allow flexible working.
If they agree they must offer the employee an amended contract, updating their hours. If they don’t agree they must explain to the employee the reasons why.
The employee has the right to appeal the decision in an employment tribunal and may only make one application per year.
Why is flexible working important?
Flexible working has been an employment right since 2014 when The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 were introduced. The benefits to both employees and employers are becoming clearer all the time, and we’ve discussed its importance previously here.
For employers: Offering potential employees FW is proven to increase quality talent acquisition – attracting and retaining staff more effectively than non-flexible working practices.
It also increases diversity by widening the candidate pool to those people who may have caring or parental responsibilities, people with disabilities and older people.
In addition, Flexible working increases discretionary effort, reduces absence and sick leave, allows savings on office overheads, increases competitiveness, and improves customer satisfaction.
For employees: Flexible working gives employees the opportunity to have a healthier work/life balance, reducing stress and anxiety (which can lead to absence) and increasing morale.
This, in turn, leads to greater job satisfaction which increases productivity. Employees who are motivated and committed tend to remain with their employer longer and produce a higher quality of work.
Flexible working also allows people with either mental health issues or physical disabilities to manage their conditions more effectively. Finally, it allows employees to save money on a daily commute and reduces the daily stress.
Types of flexible working
There are several types of flexible working, all of which can be considered by employees requesting this type of employment under the new legislation. These include:
Part-time: employees can choose to work less hours per day or fewer days per week. Reducing their working hours allows them to spend more time on their other commitments such as their families or the people they care for. This enables them to save money on such things as childcare or commuting, or even undertake volunteering work, resulting in a more satisfactory work/life balance.
Working from home (WFH): during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, WFH became a viable and necessary alternative to going into the office and working-from-homers saw the advantages this kind of work offers – a reduced commute, fewer travel expenses, increased flexibility – making it popular even after lockdown ended. The ONS (Office for National Statistics) reports that 24% of British employees now work from home at least some of the time.
Job share: job sharing, whilst potentially logistically difficult, offers employees the ability to retain their levels of responsibility while reducing their hours. One full-time role is shared with another person, allowing both employees to work flexibly to achieve a satisfactory outcome for them and their employer.
Flexitime: for people with extra responsibilities outside of work, such as childcare or caring for disabled or elderly relatives, flexitime can offer them the opportunity to fulfil all their obligations as well as their work. They may choose to work from home or alter their start/finish times to allow them to meet their commitments, both in and out of work.
The new rules
The government has not set a date for the introduction of the new rules, saying that it will deal with the legislation required when ‘time allows’; although it is presumed that changes will be made some time in 2023.
Advocates of the reforms have welcomed the proposed changes. Employers who are facing a recruitment crisis have acknowledged that it will encourage people to apply for jobs who otherwise may not have considered doing so – thanks to the flexibility it will allow.
The CIPD is in support of flexible working, recognising that it can help both organisations and the people who work for them. It has produced a range of information and guidance on its website to assist employers in implementing flexible working arrangements in the workplace.
Despite the regressive attitudes from some employers towards flexible working after the pandemic, there is little doubt that it must be a serious consideration, both to enable people to return to work when they wish, and to contribute towards the precarious economic conditions we now face in the UK.
Flexible working is high on the ‘wish list’ of many potential employees, and it will add another layer to any reputable company’s employer brand, attracting the talent they need. However, both parties will be expected to be flexible over the issue of flexibility, offering compromises to working hours and days – particularly towards women, older people and people with health conditions – all of whom would benefit most from the option to work flexibly.
Get in touch
If you’re an employer who wishes to know more about recruiting employees on a flexible basis, fill in the contact form here, email us at email@example.com, or call us for a confidential chat on 0161 929 4343 or 0207 100 4338.