Get ahead of the new flexible working legislation

Dec 8, 2022 | Blog

Get ahead of the new flexible working legislation

The government has published its response to last year’s consultation on updating flexible working laws.

If you follow me on Linkedin, you will know that flexible working is something I bang on about a lot.  Flexible working can make a world of difference to employees’ motivation and work life balance, and make work more accessible to all, particularly people with disabilities or caring responsibilities.  However, according to CIPD research, 46% of employees still say they do not have flexible working arrangements in their current role.

The government’s report will herald some changes; however some savvy (AKA brilliant) employers will already be making flexible working the norm.

What’s changing?

The report highlights that there is still some legislation to be passed to make the recommendations law, however in a nutshell, here are the main changes:

  • The right to request flexible working will become a day 1 right!!  Woop Woop – thank you to the CIPD for all they did with the Flex From 1st campaign.  Currently the right only kicks in after 26 weeks service.  Please remember however, this is the right to request, not the right to have.
  • Employees will have the right to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period.  Currently they only have one request per year.
  • The decision time will be 2 months rather than 3.  Quite why it takes three months to make a decision is beyond me, so shortening this is welcome.
  • There is likely to be a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request.  This means that if the employer is intending to decline the request, they should go back to the table and discuss alternatives.  I always advise employers to do this anyway and it is much more helpful to discuss other alternatives at the time to be able to help make a decision. Surely it’s far better to come to a compromise rather than an outright no?

Why getting ahead of the changes will be a benefit to you as an employer

  • The competitive edge over other employers.  Be the ones shouting about offering flexible working.  Not everyone has caught up yet, so get in their first and pip them to the post – be the one that all the good talent comes to for a new job!
  • Attracting from a wider talent pool.  There are loads of fabulous people out there, who are being excluded from the job market because of lack of flexibility, or who need some small adjustments to be able to do their job well.  Being flexible means you have more candidates to choose from, plus you will likely close your gender pay gap, and that can only be a good thing
  • Complying with statutory requirements is the law anyway, so if you make it second nature, it will make things a lot easier.  If you don’t follow the flexible working guidance you will risk a tribunal claim, and we all want to avoid one of those!
  • You will fall into the savvy and brilliant employer camp, and I will sing your praises from the rooftops.

What can you do to get ahead?

Well in the main, most savvy (AKA brilliant) employers won’t need to do very much as they will already be doing more than the statutory requirement.  

When the legislation comes in, you will need to update your Flexible Working Request policy, however in the meantime, here are some suggestions:

  • Make flexible working your default position.  Talk about it at the recruitment stage and make sure that you are being flexible and accommodating to hire the best talent, without putting blockers in the way.  Be open to job shares, part time working, varying start and finish times (does half an hour either side of 9am make that much difference?) and seriously consider if some of the job could be done from home (trust me, hybrid/remote working is the future whether you like it or not).  As the right will be a day 1 right, you want to try and avoid offering someone a job, then on their first day, they put in a formal flexible working request.  Get it sorted beforehand so you can all get on with the job.
  • Encourage an open culture where employees can come and talk to you about making a request.  Most of the time, if you are flexible and accommodating, you can have a chat and make the change without a formal process.  Then no one needs to keep track of how many requests someone made in a year.
  • Speed up your decision-making processes – if something takes you three months to decide upon, what on earth are you doing?  It should definitely be the exception not the norm, and in that time, that very good employee has probably been looking for jobs elsewhere because they got fed up with waiting.

If you would like help with your flexible working policy or implementing something new, I’d love to help you – email me on [email protected]

If you are already one of those employers who is a step ahead when it comes to flexible working, let me know!  I’d love to hear how it works for you (and sing your praises too).