In June 2014 the UK Government introduced new legislation giving employees the right to request flexible working including part-time working. They want to abandon the “cultural assumption” that flexible working practices are only for parents and carers requesting parental leave. Thus ensuring that the option is available to all.
January 2015 marked seven months since the introduction of flexible working legislation. According to research from O2 Business, less than a quarter of employees have chosen to adopt the flexible working arrangements.
The research set out to find the reason behind so few employees choosing to adopt flexible working options. Out of more than 2,000 employees, 31% believe the reason is mistrust.
So Should Employers Embrace Flexible Working Practices?
The two main barriers to employees taking up the option of flexible working are:
- Business culture that fails to embrace working from home
- Lack of technology geared towards remote working
Acknowledging the benefits of flexible working, Paul Lawton of O2 Business, said:
“Our research shows that the pressure to be seen in the office and a lack of tools to enable remote working prevent the benefits that working flexibly brings. Such as improved morale, high levels of employer loyalty and productivity gains.”Paul Lawton – O2 Business
Among the benefits of flexible working are increasing productivity and a more loyal workforce. So should employers in the UK be taking more of a proactive stance on adopting the new flexible working arrangements?
Be Fully Conversant With The New Legislation
Richard Morris, UK CEO of virtual office provider’s Regus, offers his opinion on flexible working practices. He suggests that even if businesses are not willing to adopt flexible working fully, they should, at least, be fully conversant with the legalisation. Morris also draws attention to the benefits agile working can provide for organisations.
A recent survey compiled by Regus found that 66% of respondents believe that flexible working improves work/life balance. Such improvements have the knock-on effect of a happier workforce.
Allowing employees to work outside the office also generates a feeling of trust. Ultimately, this leads to more satisfied and loyal employees who will stay at the organisation for longer, the survey found.
So what exactly does the new flexible working practices entail?
As the Government website states, flexible working requests are available to all employees. The only proviso being they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
What Are The Flexible Working Practices Available?
Flexible working encompasses any situation which deviates from an employees regular full-time hours. Options can include:
- Job shares
- Freedom to work from home
- Being flexible with start and finish times
- Reduced working hours or compressed hours
Dealing With Requests In A ‘Reasonable Manner’
Employers have an obligation to deal with the request in a “reasonable manner”. To process the request reasonably, the employer might hold a meeting with the employee to discuss their requirements further. The employer might want to assess the gains and disadvantages warranting the flexible working arrangement might have on the company.
If the employer finds appropriate business grounds for refusing the request for flexible working, it may do so. Likewise, if an employer does not handle the application reasonably, the employee may take the employer to an employment tribunal.
Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of employers in Britain are reluctant to embrace flexible working.
The reason for their reluctance is possibly due to flexible working being synonymous with homeworking. Employers therefore worry about the distractions and challenges which often occur within the home environment.
Many employers associate negative assumptions with flexible working. Additionally, many companies may have concerns about the new legislation. Despite this, businesses can no longer ignore this modern approach to working. An opportunity is therefore open to the savviest employers taking a more proactive stance on flexible working arrangements.
For Further Advice On Adopting Flexible Working Practices
ACAS provides a clear code of practice for employers and employees. In fact, their services can help anyone looking for advice on submitting or responding to a request for flexible working.
Do you know anyone interested in finding out more about adopting flexible working practices? If so, please share this post with them on social media. They will no doubt thank you for it!