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Employment

Flexibility from Day One

Flexible working

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Lessons have been learnt from the pandemic and a case proven for offering greater levels of flexibility to staff given its positive impact on productivity.

Against this backdrop of changes to working patterns the Government has announced plans to make requesting flexible working a right for employees from their very first day of engagement.

This proposed legislation will result in an estimated additional 2.2 million employees in the UK benefitting from the right to request flexible working from day one.

With such a variety of roles it will not always be possible to meet an employee’s request. If faced with such a conundrum employers will be encouraged to find alternative solutions. Those options may be in the scope of such flexibility of working hours being offered to certain days of the week rather than ALL.

How does it currently work?

Current legislation permits employees with 26 weeks continuous service the option to request flexible working.

An employer can reject a request for specified business reasons such as:

  • extra costs that will be a burden on the business
  • the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
  • people cannot be recruited to do the work
  • flexible working will negatively affect quality
  • flexible working will negatively affect performance
  • ability to meet customer demand will be negatively affected
  • there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • the business is planning structural changes

Given our recent experiences, working from home will no doubt be a popular choice however this consultation also extends to:

  • Job Sharing
  • Flexi-time
  • Staggered, Annualised & *Compressed Hours
  • Phased Retirement

*(Compressed hours – the working of all contracted hours within a shorter period of time)

**Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working attract talent, improve motivation and reduce staff turnover – the overall effect being the boosting of productivity and competitiveness.

However, there are some circumstances where businesses will not be able to offer flexible working. Employers will still be able to reject a request but only if they have sound business reasons.

Considerations for your organisation:

  • Make accepting flexible working requests the default with the onus on line managers to provide a compelling reason for refusal to an accountable body, such as HR
  • Consider carrying forward by default flexible working arrangements that employees had enjoyed in previous roles both within the same organisation and from previous employers. Remove information about such arrangements to prevent bias against flexible workers during hiring decisions
  • Offer a variety of options, for example, encourage individuals to come in at different times to usual or explore working in different locations to encourage uptake of informal forms of flexible working
  • Advertise all job roles as flexible. Work with managers to define how each role could look if it were performed flexibly, including both formal and informal forms
  • Make existing role models of flexible workers more visible within the organisation by sharing stories at events, in training materials, or internal online forums.
  • Discuss the range of flexible working options available, both formal and informal, and any required processes for setting them up with all employees at induction

**[source: Flexible working qualitative analysis Organisations’ experiences of flexible working arrangements – March 2019]

We welcome the launch of this consultation. Zurich has been a flexible working employer for over a decade with employees now benefiting from a hybrid approach to working arrangements. As the first company in the UK to advertise all vacancies with the option of part time, full time, job share or flexible working, we’ve seen more than double the number of applicants from men and women for new roles. By offering roles that fit flexibly around family life, employers open the doors to a much wider pool of untapped talent. This will also help people progress into higher paid jobs whilst fitting other commitments around their careers. Workers want a new deal and there’s a danger that businesses that don’t get on board, won’t be able to compete for the best candidates.

Tim Bailey, Zurich UK’s CEO

The government’s consultation on giving employees the right to request flexible working from day one of employment is a welcome move to help create more inclusive workplaces. Learning from the pandemic, many organisations are now open to more hybrid ways of working which give their employees greater say over where and how they work. But the reality for those whose roles can only be done at their place of work – such as restaurants, warehouses, or hospitals – is that they often have very little flexibility. We believe a day one right to request flexible working will help broaden the accessibility of all types of flexible working, including flexibility in hours as well as location. In turn this will boost inclusion, wellbeing and performance which is beneficial to both employers and employees alike.

Peter Cheese, CIPD CEO

The period of consultation will end 1st December 2021.

If you have any concerns regarding the issues raised in this article or implications for your business or any related employment law matter please feel free to drop Robert or Martha a line robertgibson@samuelphilllips.co.uk , marthacraven@samuelphillips.co.uk

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