The UK is finally set to get new legislation to allow employees to request flexible work arrangements, including the option to work from home.
Importantly, the Government proposes that this become a basic right for all employees from day one – the previous law allowed employees to ask for flexibility, but only after 6 months on the job.
The law change was originally proposed by Bolton South East MP, Yasmin Qureshi. Talking to the BBC, Ms Qureshi said: “While the Bill may not resolve all the concerns on access to flexible working, it is a step in the right direction, towards that end.”
She added: “The Bill aims to set the right conditions for employees and employers to have open-minded conversations about what flexible working arrangements might be possible in any given context.
“The idea is to simplify and normalise the process of making and responding to flexible working requests, bringing benefits to employees and employers alike.”
The UK government website outlined key benefits of the new legislation on December 5th:
- Millions of employees will receive day one right to request flexible working, empowering workers to have a greater say over when, where, and how they work
- Businesses set to benefit from higher productivity and staff retention as a result
- Around 1.5 million low paid workers will be given even more flexibility, with new law coming into force to remove exclusivity clause restrictions, allowing them to work for multiple employers if they wish
When the Bill was still being debated there were many critics. Some commentators believe that it’s not enough to just be able to request flexibility as many employers will find a way to wriggle out of their responsibility.
In the BBC news report, Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, which represents the human resources industry, said: “This new right will help normalise conversations about flexibility at the start of the employment relationship, with significant benefits for employees in terms of wellbeing and work–life balance.”
So HR leaders believe that it will make a difference. Most of the critics are really suggesting that employees don’t know enough about a new job on day one to start making flexible work requests. This may be true, but not always.
Greater flexibility does create a boost for businesses as well as the wider economy though – in addition to being good for the individual employees that are offered the opportunity to work more flexibly.
Research published in HR Review earlier this year suggested that a 50% increase in the number of people offered flexible working conditions could generate £55bn for the UK economy and create over 51,000 new jobs.
Refusals to accommodate flexible working requests are costing businesses almost £2bn a year in recruitment and training, as staff look for more accommodating employers.
Companies that invest in recruitment, onboarding, and training can lose all this investment if employees quit just because they are not offered more flexibility.
People Management reported that we will see a new era of work in the UK because of this legislation. Not only will it normalise requests for flexible working, but it also forces employers to think more creatively about how their employees can work. If an employer refuses flexibility then there now has to be a very clear reason why.
Sensée has always been more flexible than most employers in the UK, but we are still pleased to see that other companies will soon be embracing a much more flexible work environment!