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Employers can benefit from extension of new flexible working regulations to all workers, says CIPD

The professional body for HR and people development has been campaigning for these changes for many years, with research consistently revealing many business benefits associated with flexible working, as explored in the CIPD’s report & lsquo;Flexible Working Provision and Uptake.’

Susannah Clements, CIPD deputy chief executive, commented, “Extending the & lsquo;right to request’ to all workers is a measure that recognises the complexities of modern working lives.  Employers need flexible workforces to meet the increasingly 24/7 needs of their global customer bases. And more and more employees find they need to able to build some flexibility into their working patterns at different times during their working lives – be that to accommodate childcare, caring for sick or elderly relatives, study or other life events.

“Line managers need to be helped to understand how flexible working options can be incorporated in a way that meets business needs, and to get the best out of more complex, less “nine-to-five” teams – and HR professionals are well equipped to provide this support.

"Although many organisations already use flexible working, CIPD research reveals that take-up of some forms of flexible working are still very low – potentially limiting the talent pool of workers that firms are able to recruit from. If management skills can be raised sufficiently to maximise the upsides of a more flexible workforce, instead of allowing managers to see the new regulations as a threat, this change can help drive increases in productivity and competitiveness for firms and the wider economy.”

Under the new legislation, employees who have been in service for 26 weeks or longer, whether parents or not, will have the right to request to work flexibly. The term describes a type of working arrangement which gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where, and when employees work. Flexible working practices include part-time working, term-time working, job-sharing, flexitime, compressed hours, annual hours, working from home on a regular basis, mobile working/teleworking, career breaks, or zero hours contracts.

Many organisations have already implemented flexible working and have allowed all employees to request flexible working long before this change in the law. However, under the new right to request extension, businesses will be supported by government guidance and will now have to provide a “business reason” for saying no to a flexible working request, e.g. if they can’t cover a particular shift. CIPD research shows that reasons for refusal include customer demand (39%), inability to reorganise work (30%) and impact on performance (16%). However, around 73% of employers report that when they do offer flexible working, it has a positive impact on staff motivation and engagement, and over three quarters feel it also helps them retain staff.

Greet Brosens, group sales director at Adecco Group UK & Ireland also commented on the new laws, stating, "(The) announcement by the Government marks a huge step forward in the acceptance and adoption of flexible working practices. The changes reflect an understanding that workers want better control of their working lives with a worklife balance that supports their life commitments. Enabling this will bring tangible business benefits that increase productivity, introduce new collaborative approaches to work and act as a means of attracting and retaining top talent.

“It is however important to remember that these changes do not give employees an automatic entitlement to flexible working, rather the right to request it. Employers need to ensure that they educate staff on to how work smartly away from the office and put processes in place to deal with requests effectively and fairly. Employers should embrace advanced technology to support this, such as video conferencing and social platforms, which mean workers no longer need to be in the same locality to operate collaboratively and effectively”.


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