To a certain extent, UK employees have long had a legal right to flexible working. As explained in an article published by The Gazette, the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 “provide a statutory right for employees with at least 26 weeks continuous service with an organization to request flexible working.”
However, the article clarifies that this is “only a legal right to ask and not to have. Employers can, on business grounds, decline a request.” Thankfully, flexible work rights are potentially set to be expanded in the UK due to the recent introduction of the Flexible Working Bill.
What is the Flexible Working Bill, and how might it affect your working practices?
So, what exactly is the Flexible Working Bill?
This is more of a colloquial name. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, as it is more formally known, was initially introduced by MP Yasmin Qureshi and had its second reading in the House of Commons in late October 2022.
At the time of writing, the bill has not yet been passed into law. However, if the bill does eventually succeed on this count, no employer presented with an employee’s flexible working request will be able to reject it without first consulting with the worker in question.
Furthermore, in 12 months, each employee will be allowed to make two requests rather than just one. The employer would be given just two months — a reduction from the currently permitted three-month period — to decide about the request.
Would this legislation make a significant practical difference?
The legislation would “send an important signal to organizations that they need to create more opportunities around flexible working, to help recruit and retain a diverse pool of talent and to support broader business agility,” CIPD senior policy advisor Claire McCartney has opined as quoted by People Management.
In the wait for the bill to potentially be turned into legislation, McCartney has urged organizations to “make the change now, wherever possible, to their internal policies and practices.”
“Our survey findings suggest that more than a third of organizations already offer the right to request flexible working from day one, and we would encourage other organizations to follow this example if they want to enhance their reputation as an employer of choice,” McCartney added.
If you own a UK-based business, your ability to offer flexible working arrangements could be hampered by your company’s physical workplace. If this is the case, you could consider renting one of the flexible workplaces in London from BE Offices.
What types of flexible working could you offer?
One basic option would be part-time work, where the tally of work hours can be reduced. However, you could also offer a hybrid working model, where employees can divide their work hours between home and the traditional workplace.
However, you might not be too familiar with other flexible working options now, including term-time working, where parenting employees can opt to work only during term. You could also consider the largely self-explanatory concept of the four-day working week.