In its Children and Families Bill, published on 5 February 2013, the Government committed to extending the right to flexible working for all employees.
The Right to Request scheme, which currently only applies to those with children under 17, relatives and some carers, will allow everyone to ask their employer for flexible hours if they wish to help others with childcare, and employers would be forced to consider all requests ‘in a reasonable way’.
The new laws are currently under consultation and are expected to be in force before 2014, but it is really important that employers consider the impacts that it will have on their business and understand the benefits that can arise from implementing a flexible working system.
Flexible working is generally thought of as a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, and of course this is very true, however, this modern way of working can also be extremely beneficial for employers.
Flexible working, which can include part time working, term-time working, job sharing, flexitime, annual hours, working from home, mobile/tele working and career breaks, is becoming a permanent fixture for many companies according to a recent report.
The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) recently published a report which found that 94% of UK employers do offer some options in regards to flexible working, while 73% of the 1,100 UK mangers who were polled, said their organisation actively supports flexible work practices.
Employers should consider that improvements surrounding loyalty, commitment and engagement from workers will be seen if they choose to adopt a more universal approach to considering flexible working requests.
Chief Executive at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Peter Cheese, recently highlighted some of the benefits that flexible working can offer employers, saying:
“Employers should have nothing to fear and much to gain from embracing this change, and using it as an opportunity to consider how flexible working practices can both attract a more diverse workforce, but also support them better, resulting in better engagement and wellbeing which in turn produces higher levels of productivity and performance.”
When thinking about flexible working, the key points for employers to be aware of include:
- Employees must have 26 weeks continuous employment at the date the application is made.
- Employers have statutory duty to consider applications.
- Once agreed it becomes a permanent change to the contract of employment.
- An employee has the right to appeal if necessary against the outcome.
- Negotiate an agreement if requested hours are not possible.
- Only one application can be made in a 12 months period.
From increased productivity to reduced absence rates, employers can realise the financial benefits of flexible working with the Government’s own assessment predicting that the extension will bring a net benefit of £222.5m to employers.
It appears that flexible working is something that many employees want or indeed expect, and, as a result, businesses need to adapt to ensure that they keep up with changing workplace attitudes.
Once they do, all organisations will realise that flexible working is an essential tool for business success.
Content Developer, Workplace Law