Flexible working rights extended to 20 million

Posted on 30 Jun 2014 by Callum Bentley

From today every employee will gain the right to request flexible working, giving a boost to workers and to business.

Up until now, the right has only been available for carers, or people who look after children.

This has now been extended to all employees.

Today’s extension of the right to request the chance to work flexibly means more than 20 million employees can now benefit.

Flexible working aims to help people balance their work with responsibilities, keeping more people in long-term employment and enabling companies to keep hold of top talent.

The Manufacturer’s Flexible Workforce Conference

Workforce flexibility is shaping the way manufacturers manage their human capital to maximise their ROI. By altering the time, location and manner in which employees work to achieve both business and individual needs, workforce flexibility can, if correctly managed allow companies to maximise their workforce effectiveness and productivity.

This year’s Flexible Workforce conference, held on July 9, will bring together SMEs and larger businesses to discuss how to achieve and sustain workforce flexibility, address challenges of motivation, retention and of the constantly ageing manufacturing workforce.  It will be delivered through case studies from some of the country’s leading manufacturers, keynote speakers and will give you the opportunity to network.

Find out more here.

It is expected the new right will be of particular interest to older workers who want to work differently as they approach retirement and to young people entering the labour market who may want take up additional training or learning while they work.

As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered in a reasonable manner by employers – this will be much simpler than the previous burdensome process businesses had to undergo before making a decision.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow. It’s about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said: “Extending the right to request flexible working will help to create a cultural shift towards more modern, 21st century workplaces where working flexibly is the norm.

“Firms that embrace flexible working are more likely to attract and retain the best talent and reap the benefits of a more motivated workforce. Employees will benefit from being able to balance work with other commitments in their lives. It also helps drive a cultural shift where flexible working becomes the norm.”

Businesses have reported benefits to their firms in allowing staff to adopt more flexible working practices. This includes over half reporting an improvement in their relationship with their employees and staff motivation, 40 per cent reporting a boost in productivity and 38 per cent seeing a drop in staff absence.

However according to global law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, UK Employers could be bracing themselves for an influx of grievances and resentment amongst staff from as the right to request flexible working comes into force. The firm has surveyed over 100 medium to large UK-based companies with a combined workforce of over one million for their views on the impact of the flexible working policy on their businesses.

A huge 84% of the UK businesses surveyed envisaged potential resentment and in-fighting arising amongst their workforce as a result of the new rule to open up the right to request flexible working to all employees, instead of just to parents of children under the age of 18 as the law currently allows.

58% of employers surveyed believed that the wider eligibility to request flexible working could increase the number of grievances or Employment Tribunal claims they could face from employees who are refused flexible working or who feel themselves disadvantaged by its being granted to a colleague.

Neil Pickering, director at workforce management company Kronos, commented: “There’s no doubt that the change in law will create a more motivated, flexible and talented workforce. Flexible working hours can reduce unhappiness in the workplace, improve staff retention and boost employee engagement, which in turn boosts productivity. It also enables employers to attract and retain more staff, while also widening the pool of talent in the labour market, helping to drive growth.

“Yet despite obvious benefits, the new law makes managing a workforce more complex, particularly for smaller businesses that cannot afford a HR department. These organisations should look to the support of technology such as workforce management systems, which can provide the automation, information, and visibility to foresee when problems will arise and the subsequent financial challenges.

“Without the systematic means to manage flexible working, businesses may find themselves failing to comply with new government regulations. This can lead to serious consequences like working time directive non-compliance and employee-relations problems that can result in low morale, poor employee engagement and costly turnover.”