The Right to Request Flexible Working

Being adaptable to when and where employees work is a challenge that many employees are embracing. With new laws being introduced this year, all employees will gain the right to request flexible working. So, why is the workforce keen to move from fixed to flexible arrangements and how can this benefit employers?

Changes in Employment Law

Looking back, part-time work has long been offered and since 2003, parents have had the right to request flexible working. Then, Covid-19 forced an overnight acceptance of remote working. These steps forced employers to consider alternative working patterns and have opened up opportunities for flexible working. However, the decision has been at the discretion of the employer.

This year, new laws* will empower employees. From April 2024, employees gain the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. Managers are encouraged to be open-minded and fair when considering these requests. In addition, they are required to provide a prompt response to the employee.

Following this, the Employment (Flexible Working) Act comes into force in July. This further empowers workers to request specific working hours or locations and makes it easier to appeal decisions through a tribunal.

Why is Flexible Working Good for Employers?

According to ONS data** there are currently 932,000 vacancies in the UK and employers are struggling to fill these positions. They simply can’t find people with the right skills for the job.

Sometimes, the issue isn’t a skills shortage, but the fact that talented individuals don’t live locally. Equally, people may be unable to take on a full-time fixed role due to other commitments. There are a wealth of experienced, educated and high-performing individuals who want a good job, but are restricted by where or when they can work.

Considering remote or hybrid working can extend the potential pool of candidates. Now, this isn’t viable in all industries. For example, it is impractical for most care, education and manufacturing roles. However, it can work for many roles that are not currently offering flexible working arrangements. Could it solve your recruitment challenges?

Equally, being open to job shares, flexible start and finish times or reduced hours can make a role more appealing to a great number of potential candidates. What’s more, being flexible works both ways, when there’s a deadline to meet or other demands on the business, employees are more willing to get involved and help out.

In addition, research shows that employees offered flexible working opportunities have lower absenteeism, greater commitment to the company and higher levels of job satisfaction. This openness can also make a workplace more inclusive and diverse.

Why is Flexible Working Good for Employees?

Firstly, not everyone wants to spend almost every waking hour at work or on the commute. Some people are keen to pursue other interests and create a better balance. They might have a desire to study, volunteer, travel or spend time on a hobby. Some level of flexibility enables them to do so.

Many other people have caring responsibilities. From being parents to looking after parents, it is difficult to commit to a full-time, fixed role. At every school gate there are experienced, skilled and highly educated individuals whose talent is being wasted. They want to work and would be snapped up if shorter days or flexible arrangements could be agreed.

Equally, there are talented people with health conditions that limit the hours they can work. Needing to attend appointments or not being able to be on their feet all day doesn’t mean they aren’t without highly desirable skills, knowledge and experience.

Reservations About Flexible Working

In talking with employers, I understand many have reservations about flexible working. As mentioned before, there are some professions where it is less practical, although, I’d argue, not impossible.

There are concerns about managing teams that work remotely. Equally, there are issues around safety and security. Some feel that the opportunity for collaboration and learning from others will be lost. Others feel that they will be bombarded with requests and it will be difficult to ensure fair and viable options are offered to all.

There is no doubt that it can take effort to plan what can work, how it will be managed and what the limitations are. What’s more, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the needs of the business and customers have to be met. However, I believe that employers that are open to flexible working will reap the rewards. More successful recruitment and retention is just the start.

Be Prepared to Make Concessions

With the new laws coming into force, all employers have to be prepared to make some concessions. Planning out what could work and how this could benefit the business and employees is a good starting point.

We are speaking to employees who are seeking part-time, job share and remote working roles. So, if you are looking to fill a position and are open to flexible working arrangements, get in touch.



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