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21 October 2021 | Business, News

Flexible Working a Day-one Right

Under new government proposals workers in the UK may soon be able to request flexible working options from the first day of starting a new job.  Historically, the option to request flexible working has usually been linked to time in service, but now the government wants to modernise the way, and where, we work.

While it will become possible for an employee to make a request for flexible working, employers may not be able to accept that request due to the type of work being done.  In those situations an employer should be open to exploring alternative flexible options, such as varying the employee’s hours on some days rather than all, compressed or staggered hours, and even job-sharing.

A company’s HR team may well be anxious about introducing such flexible options and the checks and processes that would be needed, but research has shown that companies which provide flexible working options to their staff attract better employee talent, increase motivation, and reduce staff turnover. With recruitment and initial training being one of a business’ most expensive regular processes keeping staff engaged for the longer-term delivers benefits to employer and employee.

Industry feedback has generally been positive.  James Timpson, CEO of Timpson Group has said, “Giving workers more choice about how they work will not only inspire and motivate staff, it will also help businesses attract and retain the best talent to grow their companies.”  Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, commented, “Carers UK’s own research shows that pre-pandemic, every single day more than 600 people across the UK were giving up work to care for a loved one – with a devastating impact on their personal finances and at a huge cost to the wider UK economy.”

The consultation focuses on contractual terms for flexible working arrangements, but will also acknowledge such formal arrangements may not be necessary in all cases.  For example, flexibility to attend a one-off appointment could be made available where other flexible working options cannot be accommodated.

In addition to making flexible working options available to workers, the government will also introduce a day-one right for unpaid carers to take a week’s unpaid leave in order to balance work and caring fo someone with long-term needs.

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