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Navigating the new Flexible Working Laws

  • Publish Date: Posted 22 days ago
  • Author: Leanne Wallworth

What’s changed with Flexible Working?

Last month there were significant changes to the way we work with the introduction of the new Flexible Working Bill. But what exactly does this mean for you and your organisation? Here, we’re going to delve into these changes and discuss what this means for you and the businesses you work in. 

What is the new Flexible Working Bill, and who does it affect?

Announced by the UK government in July 2023, the new Flexible Working Bill builds upon existing legislation, granting employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from the very start of their employment. This includes options such as part-time work, flexitime, compressed hours, and varied working locations. The changes have been implemented to positively impact all employees, and all potential employees of your business.

How is the new Flexible Working Bill different from current laws?

Essentially, the new legislation has been put in place to prioritise employees. From April 2024, employers are required to provide explanations for denying flexible working requests—a departure from previous practices where refusals could be made without justification. Additionally, response times to requests have been shortened to two months from the previous three.

For employers, it's crucial to note the obligation to justify denials of flexible working requests and the shortened response window. Employees, on the other hand, will benefit from the ability to make two requests annually and are no longer required to detail the effects of their proposed changes on the company, meaning they no longer need to explain what impact their flexible working request would have on the business.

Why you should businesses embrace the new Flexible Working Bill

Although the changes in legislation have been introduced to help empower employees in the workplace, they provide very clear benefits to employers and managers. 

We can see the changes to the Flexible Working Bill going one of two ways. In one instance, little could change and the change in legislation could have very little impact on flexible working in practice. This is because no minimum standard of consultation has been specified. Other than providing a change in the amount of time employers have to respond to requests, no other enforceable parameters have been established. 

On the other hand, employers can use this as a way to strengthen their employer brand. In a post COVID world, candidates are prioritising added benefits much more, meaning culture, working practices and company values are increasing in importance, and rightly so. Fully embracing the new Flexible Working Bill could prove beneficial with regards to attracting high-quality candidates in a difficult market.

In fact, in two separate surveys our sister business, bpesearch conducted, found that ‘flexible/hybrid working’ (80%) and ‘a four-day working week’ (75%) were the most desirable or attractive benefits, well ahead of ‘a salary 10% above market rate’. This may of course change as the cost-of-living crisis bites harder, but unsurprisingly flexibility is a clear advantage in attracting and retaining talent.

These findings are backed by CIPD, which found that 6% of employees changed jobs last year due to a lack of options and 12% left their profession/sector altogether. This reinforces the fact that it is crucial employers embrace flexible working arrangements to improve staff retention and attract the best talent.

Adopting a real and authentic flexible working policy in the workplace can also improve your retention and desirability amongst a large group of employees - women. Deloitte’s Women @ Work: A Global Outlook report, highlights that an organization’s ability (or inability) to offer women flexibility around when their work gets done is a top lever of engagement and retention. The report shows that a lack of flexibility around working hours is one of the top three reasons they give for leaving their employer in the past year and is the No. 1 reason women who are looking to leave their current employers give.

How can you prepare for the new Flexible Working Bill?

To make the most of the Flexible Working Bill, ensure key stakeholders within the business are in agreement about your company’s flexible working policy. If you don’t already, we recommend implementing a formal flexible working policy within your organisation. Transparency and clear parameters are key so employees understand you are serious about flexible working and aren’t just conducting a flag waving exercise. 

You also need to effectively communicate with your teams so they’re well informed about the Flexible Working Bill and what your company is doing to support this. Share clear guidelines for the organisation's flexible working policy and how people can make requests. You will also need to train managers on how they can adopt the right attitudes to flexible working and how they can best handle any requests that come their way. 

Embracing the Flexible Working Bill goes much further than your businesses remaining compliant with the legislation. Used effectively and and in an authentic way, it can help shape the culture of the workplace resulting in long term benefits for your businesses.