As we have seen over the last few months, flexible working is an ever-evolving area with many variations of what flexible working looks like for each individual and business. We have seen the consequences of the pandemic, which have kept some employees out of the office for many months and as a result, many more businesses are allowing their employees to work from home. In addition, some businesses are starting to offer greater flexibility, whether this is part time working, job sharing or hybrid working, as a way of attracting and retaining staff in a difficult labour market.
Flexible working legislation also continues to evolve and a new Bill that is working its way through parliament could extend and enhance an employee’s right to request flexible working in the future.
Since 2014, the Flexible Working Regulations have provided a statutory right for employees to request flexible working from their employer subject to certain eligibility criteria. For example, an employee must have at least 26 weeks of continuous service with the company before they can apply for flexible working.
The new Flexible Working Bill introduced into parliament in June 2021 seeks to give employees the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. In addition to this, if the Bill is passed in its current form, employers would be required to offer flexible working arrangements in the employee contracts as well as advising what flexibility is available within any job advertisements.
The Bill has a lot of support across parliament and if passed, it will affect not only a company’s Flexible Working policy but also their employee contracts and job advertisements, so employers should be considering the potential impact of these changes now. Of course, we may well see changes to the draft legislation before anything come s into force. This does however add to the already increasing pressure on companies to develop their agile or hybrid working policies which were introduced initially in response to covid-19 restrictions and guidance.
By Rachel Storey – Risk Consultant