What does the Flexible Working Bill mean for employers?

What does the Flexible Working Bill mean for employers?

Flexible Working Bill Changes

The Flexible Working Bill has achieved Royal Ascent which means workers will soon have the right to request flexible working from day 1 of employment, otherwise known as the day 1 flex or Flexfrom1st.

This important announcement has implications for HR departments and business leaders. Here’s how the changes to flexible working will affect you as a business and how to use this to your advantage, and that of your people.

The changes in brief: 

  • Day 1 right – Employees will be able to request flexible working from day one instead of the current 26-week qualifying period.
  • Consultation – You must consult with your employees before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Reduced waiting times for decisions – The wait time for a decision has been reduced from 3 months to 2 months as a maximum.
  • Effect on the business – The employee making the flexible working request will not have to outline the effect this may have on the business.

“There’s been a global shift and changed attitudes towards flexible working. It has allowed more people to better balance their working lives and employers have also benefitted from being an attractive place to work for staff that value flexibility.” Susan Clews, Acas Chief Executive

When does the Flexible Working Bill come into effect?

Under the new flexible working bill rules, on 6 April 2024, employees are able to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment.

What qualifies as a flexible working request?

Be aware that flexible working requests are not just about hybrid working. Flexible working is a broad term which can include part-time work, changes to work hours, flexi-time and adjusted start and finish times.

Can you refuse flexible working requests?

There are currently 8 permissible reasons for refusing requests including the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on customers, inability to reorganise work among the existing team or recruit, detrimental effect on quality and performance, insufficiency of work due to proposed periods of work or planned structural changes.

However, it is wise to keep an eye on the changes as they emerge to ensure you remain compliant. You also need to ensure that your reasons for rejecting a request are fair to avoid indirect discrimination & of course the damage rejecting a request could have on the motivation of your employee.

Flexible Working Bill Employer Considerations

Updates to HR policies and handbooks 

You’ll want to ensure you review and update your HR policies and handbooks to stay compliant and make sure they match what the Flexible Working Bill says.

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Planning ahead for your business

A recent survey found that 49% of workers would consider using the new flex rights. You can look at employee engagement techniques to explore finding out how your own workforce feel about your current set up and their plans for 2024 and beyond.

Consider carefully how you will handle these requests particularly and plan ahead for any expected changes to your business. You may want to incorporate extra steps into your onboarding process to be upfront about the changes.

Hybrid working can have a big effect on company culture, productivity and workplace relationships for better or worse. Luckily you have a lot of control over this; by implementing the right technology, processes and developing your people.

By developing your people to have the right leadership skills and communication techniques to work more closely together you can increase the performance of your teams.

Study finds WFH is less productive

A new US study has found that working remotely full time is associated with 10-20% lower productivity, however this was mostly down to less efficient communication and a lack of motivation, both of which can be avoided through the right processes, communication skills and employee engagement. What’s more other papers have found working from home to be more productive which shows it’s often about the working environment, employee motivation and internal relationships particularly between managers and their teams.

What’s more reskilling managers to enable them to focus on “mentoring, culture-building, and motivation” can significantly help.

Supporting a diverse workforce

The same report found that 71% of respondents from a black ethnic background were likely to consider using their day 1 flexible working rights along with 54% of younger workers, 39% of other 50s and 53% of carers.

You can support your diverse and multi-generational workforces by staying ahead of the game and exploring additional ways you can provide the best work life balance to your team. This will reduce stress, increase productivity and improve job satisfaction.

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Confidentiality considerations

As well as working from home people could ask to work from a satellite office to shorten their commute. You’ll need to consider the confidentiality of your clients or sensitive business information if an employee wants to work from a shared working place.

Keep it fair

There may be times you say yes to flexible working and others where you feel these conflict too strongly with the needs of your business. Consider ahead of time which requests you can reasonably except or decline and explore how to maintain fairness across the business.

“Flexible working practices can include options on the hours people work, their working patterns and their location, for example hybrid working. Employers that use a range of approaches can ensure flexible working provision is fair and available to all types of workers regardless of their job or sector.” Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD and Chair of the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce.

How to stand out as an employer of choice

Learn more about how to stand out as an employer ahead of the flexible working bill taking effect here.

How to stand out as an employer

HR support

We’re always here as a sounding board if you want to talk about flexible working or have a wider conversation about HR support or getting the most out of hybrid working, reach out to our friendly team.

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N.B. Please note that the information in this blog was created based on the integrity of reputable links at the time of publishing. These blogs should be used for guidance only, you should always check information further before taking action as sources may update over time. Talk Staff holds no responsibility for implementation or loss