Over the past 12-months, an optimistic light has been cast on The Good Work Plan 2020, with well-being as one of the key founding principles. In particular, the pandemic saw an enormous shift in the emphasis on employee health and happiness, concentrating on what well-being really means to businesses and the people driving it forward.
One of the most significant changes has been demonstrated in the rise of remote, hybrid and flexible-working, with Forbes stating work-life balance as the most valued element of company culture (2023). This is supported by the CIPD, who announced in their Trends in Flexible Working Arrangements report that more action is needed to increase flexible working practices, launching the #FlexFrom1st campaign calling for a change in UK law.
The May 2023 CIPD press release stated an estimated 4 million people have changed careers due to lack of flexibility at work, warning businesses of the potential “talent exodus” if they fail to offer flexible working options. However, the research behind their statement additionally showed an increase in the number of businesses offering flexible working from day one, rising from 36% in 2021 to 39% in 2023.
Was this uplift encouraged by new Government legislation, or are businesses realising the impact of not offering flexibility, as well as the potential benefits they could be missing out on?
Campaigns, press releases and an abundance of research has led to a reform in UK law, with the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill currently awaiting the Royal Assent.
If we’re all honest, legislation and the mass research around them isn’t the easiest read, so let’s break it down (thank you Daniel Barnett).
What is changing?
Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
Requests must be dealt-with by employers within 2 months of receipt of a request if no extension is agreed.
Employers are not able to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee (although there is no legislative requirement of what that ‘consultation’ needs to include).
Employees will no longer, in their application, explain what effect the employee thinks agreeing to the request would have and how any such effect might be dealt with.
What doesn’t it do?
It doesn’t make flexible working a ‘Day 1 right’. Employees still need to have 26 week’s service before they are able to make a request. The Government has indicated that it will create Day 1 employment rights through secondary legislation – although none has appeared yet. The issue is not covered in the Act.
It doesn’t require employers to offer a right of appeal if a flexible working request is rejected. The offer of a right of appeal is recommended in the ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working. These changes have not made it a requirement of the process.
There is no requirement that consultation with the employee is substantive or covers the options available. Indeed, there is no minimum standard of consultation set out at all.
With the new Act coming in to play at any moment, this is the perfect time to start thinking about how this can benefit you and your business.
Happiness and improved job satisfaction makes people more productive at work.
Businesses can save money on office space, and balance working hours for 24/7 customer demand.
Reduce absence rates and improve mental health.
Modern and flexible working patterns are a great way to attract new recruits.
Expand your talent reach across a far-wider pool of people.
If you want to discuss any new vacancies, or need advice on how flexible working could work within your office, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experienced consultants to discuss options.