Flexible working could be made a day-one right
New legislation outlines how flexible working could be a day-one right for employees. This could give an additional two million people in the UK greater flexibility over their working lives.
Workers currently only have a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of continuous employment. The proposed policy states that it aims to take “a world-class approach to flexible working” which could make it the default for future work contracts.
As well as allowing employees to make flexible working requests from the start of their employment, the proposal suggests restricting the reasons employers can refuse a flexible working request, and introducing a requirement for employers to offer alternatives if the arrangement the employee asks for isn’t suitable.
It’s clear there is high demand for flexible jobs after the pandemic has shaken up the usual nine-to-five. According to Timewise statistics, 87% of people want to work flexibly, and 9/10 employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity (even more motivating than financial incentives, according to 77% surveyed).
The proposed benefits to this approach are:
- A more flexible labour market will mean businesses will be more resilient to challenges ahead
- More flexible contracts will aid recruitment and retention
- To reduce the obstacles that stop people progressing in their career, such as balancing other commitments or the high costs of living close to higher-paying city centre jobs
- As such, it may help companies foster a more diverse workforce
Companies will need to embrace flexible working with a more open mindset for it to have a lasting positive impact.
It’s clear that employers will still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons, though the current eight reasons employers can refuse a request are being questioned. At the moment, these include if the flexible working arrangements create extra costs for the business, or it might impact on quality of work or performance, in which case an employer can say no to the request.
However, experts warn that business culture will need to change to keep up with this legislation if it does come into effect. They recommend that breaking down the existing stigma surrounding flexible working has to be a top-down approach. Companies will need to embrace flexible working as a concept with a more open mindset for it to have a lasting positive impact.
The consultation period was opened 23rd September and closes on 1st December 2021.