Millions of British workers will have more flexibility over where and when they work as the Flexible Working Bill achieves Royal Assent.
Delivering on a 2019 Manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working, the Act means that workers will have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. Employers will now be required to consider any requests. The Flexible Working Bill will require employers to consider and discuss any requests made by their employee - who will have the right to two requests a year - within two months of a request, down from three. Employers will also be legally obligated to provide a reason before rejection.
What do we mean by flexible working?
‘Flexible working’ is a broad term and can relate to working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times. It can also include flexibility over where someone works, whether that be from home or a satellite office shortening their commute.
Other examples of flexible working supported by The Flexible Working Bill are as follows:
Flexible working hours: The bill gives employees the right to request flexible working hours, allowing them to choose their start and end times or adjust their schedules to better suit their personal circumstances.
Remote work and telecommuting: Allows an option for employees to work from home or other locations outside the office, promoting a more remote-friendly work environment.
Job-sharing and part-time work: The Bill allows for job-sharing arrangements, where two or more employees share the responsibilities of one full-time position. It also addresses part-time work options.
Compressed workweek: The Bill will allow for employees to work longer hours on certain days to shorten their workweek or provide for additional days off.
Parental leave and caregiver provisions: A flexible working bill might include provisions that support working parents and caregivers, such as enhanced parental leave policies or flexible arrangements to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
What will the The Flexible Working Bill mean for UK businesses?
As well as clear benefits to workers, the measures will also create positive change for British business. Research shows that companies that embrace flexible working are able to attract more talent and improve staff retention which in turn will boost their business’s productivity and competitiveness.
CIPD research shows that 6% of employees changed jobs last year specifically due to a lack of flexible options and 12% left their profession altogether due to a lack of flexibility within the sector. This represents almost 2 and 4 million workers respectively.
Chief Executive of the CIPD and Chair of the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce Peter Cheese said:
“By using the tagline ‘Happy To Talk Flexible Working’ in job advertisements, employers can open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces. This transparency supports workers to ask for flexibility and helps to normalise the conversation for all groups.
Many organisations are facing the dual challenges of skills shortages and talent retention issues and we know that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems.
Flexible working practices can include options on the hours people work, their working patterns and their location, for example hybrid working. Employers that use a range of approaches can ensure flexible working provision is fair and available to all types of workers regardless of their job or sector.”
The change in regulations will bring an estimated 2.2 million more employees in scope of the entitlement.
How will the The Flexible Working Bill benefit UK employees?
Workers will benefit from the following new protections once in force:
- New requirements for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request.
- Permission to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one request).
- Reduced waiting times for decisions to be made (within which an employer administers the statutory request) from three months to two months.
- The removal of existing requirements that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
- Protections against discrimination based on their flexible work arrangements or refusal to work flexibly.
- Enforces the responsibilities of employers in considering and accommodating flexible work requests, ensuring that they engage in good faith discussions with employees about their preferences.
Gov.uk expects the measures in the Act and secondary legislation to come into force approximately a year after Royal Assent, to give employers time to prepare for the changes.
We hope this article has been helpful and gives you more clarity about what The flexible Working Bill will mean for workers and employers. If you’d like to find out more, we'd recommend the following sources:
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