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1 month ago

Flexible Working Becomes UK Law

In a significant move to create more adaptable and accommodating work environments, the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations received Royal Assent in July 2023 and came into effect on 6th April 2024. They grant all employees across the UK the legal right to request flexible working.

Previously, the right to request flexible working was only accessible after an employee had completed at least 26 weeks of service. However, with this new amendment, workers are empowered to initiate discussions from the beginning of their employment.

Flexible working, a term encompassing an array of arrangements beyond the conventional 9-5 office routine, allows for adjustments in where and when employees work. This way of working could involve remote work to eliminate unnecessary commutes or personal commitment clashes.

Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake backed the legislative change, emphasising its positive impact on employee morale and productivity. Many agree that the recognition of flexible working as a legal right underscores its importance in creating a happier and more efficient workforce.

Woman working from home with dogFlexible working dates back to the early 2000s under Tony Blair's Labour government. Initially, it targeted parents of young children and carers specifically. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst, accelerating the demand for and acceptance of flexible working arrangements.

The new law has the potential to benefit millions, enabling them to strike a better balance between work and personal life while exerting greater control over their work environment.

Some are hailing the flexibility in scheduling and travel as transformative, particularly for individuals with health issues, care responsibilities or lifestyle preferences. With demographic shifts, the significance of flexible working has never been more pronounced. Positive impacts on employee well-being resonate equally with business leaders, making it a mutually beneficial arrangement.

What You Need to Know About the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations

Effective from 6th April 2024, employers must engage with employees before rejecting a flexible working request. While there are legitimate reasons for refusal, such as cost implications or performance concerns, businesses are encouraged to explore the feasibility of accommodating flexible working.

Acas, the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, has released a statutory Code of Practice and guidance to aid employers and employees.

A recent study by the campaign group Timewise revealed that half of the workforce would consider leveraging the day-one right to request flexible working in a new job, underscoring widespread appeal.

Research conducted by Pregnant Then Screwed found that mothers are twice as likely as fathers to seek flexible working following parental leave, highlighting the often gendered nature of childcare responsibilities. Chief Executive Joeli Brearley noted that the availability of flexible arrangements in job adverts remains limited, potentially impeding career progression for women.

Implications for SMEs

The expansion of the right to request flexible working presents both opportunities and challenges for business owners. On one hand, embracing flexible working can enhance employee satisfaction, leading to increased productivity and retention. If you operate a small business, you can leverage this policy to attract top talent and cultivate a positive workplace culture.

However, accommodating flexible working arrangements may require you to adapt your operations and strategies as an SME. As an employer, you must carefully balance your business's needs with your employees' desires to ensure that processes remain efficient.

Business leaders should familiarise themselves with the legal obligations outlined in the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 before discussing flexible work requests with employees.

Invest in Tech

It's often advisable to invest in reliable technology and communication tools to maintain seamless collaboration. By ensuring that your employees have access to secure networks, video conferencing platforms, project management tools, and other necessary software for their specific roles, you provide your teams with the tools they need to effectively do their jobs without putting your business continuity at risk. To ensure you can run these digital processes smoothly, you should invest in fast and reliable business broadband.

Save on Energy

With energy prices unusually high, office work can be very costly for small businesses. At BusinessComparison, we can help compare deals from gas and electricity suppliers, allowing you to find the best energy rates for your premises.

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Sam White