In recognition, the UK Government plans to make flexible working the default, giving millions of employees a greater say over when, where and how they work.
Legislation going through parliament will give workers the right to request work flexibly from day one of their employment. Now employees have a 26-week qualifying period before they can make the request. Flexible working is not confined to a combination of working from home and in the office – it can apply to job sharing, flexitime and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
At the same time, exclusivity clauses will be removed, allowing workers with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 per week to work for multiple employees if they wish.
Flexible working has been shown to help people balance their work and home life, especially supporting those with commitments or responsibilities, such as caring for children or vulnerable adults.
As well as leading to happier and more productive staff, it is hoped that the new measures will remove some of the invisible restrictions to jobs, creating a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns.
Among those welcoming the news was Sridhar Iyengar, MD, for software company Zoho Europe. He says: “The past two years have shown that more flexible working environments are beneficial to businesses and workers alike. Hybrid working, in particular, has become a popular operational model that connects workforces with a flexible work-life balance, while keeping productivity high and operating costs lower. The employee experience is growing in importance for all businesses, and this can contribute positively to ensure employees are engaged.
“This welcome decision from the Government will cement flexible work as a long-term solution for the UK business economy and gives even more power and autonomy to hard-working individuals over the country.”
If an employer cannot accommodate a request to work flexibly, they will be required to discuss alternative options before they can reject the request. For example, if it is not possible to change an employee’s working hours on all days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.
The new legislation, backed by the Government’s response to the Making flexible working the default consultation, will also remove the requirement for employees to set out the effects of their flexible working requests to employers, removing a large administrative burden for both sides.