UK Flexible Working Bill paves new work-life balance

Millions of workers in the UK are set to benefit from the new Flexible Working Bill, which came into effect on 6 April 2024.

The key provisions of this legislation allow employees to request flexible working arrangements from the very first day of their employment, which marks a significant shift from the previous requirement of having to be employed for at least 26 weeks.

Employees will now be able to make two such requests within any 12 months, compared to just one request per year under the previous rules. Additionally, employers must now respond to these requests within two months, instead of the previous three months.

The bill introduces several changes aimed at increasing workplace flexibility and addressing the evolving needs of the workforce. For example, the new rules eliminate the requirement for employees to justify the impact of their proposed change on the workplace, which simplifies the process and potentially increases the likelihood of approval. Moreover, employers are now required to consult with employees and provide concrete reasons before denying a request for flexible work.

These changes are expected to enhance employee satisfaction and retention by allowing workers to better balance their professional and personal lives. The legislation could lead to improved job attraction, increase workforce diversity, and help businesses to retain talent. Furthermore, this move aligns with broader trends towards more flexible work arrangements that have been accelerated by the shift in work patterns during the pandemic​.

This comes after a wave of wins for workers after a record increase in the National Minimum Wage and improved employee protection for parents and unpaid careers.

A report from Slack in January showcased a strong want among employees across the UK for flexible working, with 55 per cent of workers planning to request these arrangements.

70 per cent of workers are more likely to apply for a job based on the company’s flexible working policy- particularly increasing to 76 per cent for ages between 18 and 34.

Delivering on a 2019 Manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working, the Act will require employers to consider and discuss the requests made from employees, who have the right to two requests a year.

A study conducted by Stanford University in 2022 found that remote workers are 9 per cent more productive than those working in a physical office.

Remote working provides a series of benefits to both employees and businesses, including improved employee satisfaction which ultimately boosts productivity and revenues in return for businesses.

Sachin Agrawal, Managing Director at Zoho UK, commented:

“The introduction of the Flexible Working Bill is a great step forward for staff, giving employees greater control over their work life. This legislation facilitates remote and hybrid working models, enabling staff to live away from offices in overcrowded urban centres, enjoy a more affordable lifestyle and stay closer to family and friends. It could also help to distribute skills and expertise more evenly nationwide.

“Technology plays an important role in facilitating work-from-anywhere practices, creating a seamless experience for employees regardless of whether they are at home or in the office. Real-time collaboration and communication technology, in particular, as part of wider unified systems, can allow teams to work simultaneously on tasks and stay connected at all times. This helps businesses to maintain staff productivity and motivation, while improving the employee experience due to the greater flexibility afforded by remote work.”

Overall, the new flexible working legislation represents a significant modernisation of employment practices, aiming to make the UK labour market more adaptable and responsive to the needs of both employers and employees.

Read the full report here.

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