Should employers embrace flexible working practices?
In June 2014 the UK Government introduced new legislation that gives employees the legal right to ask for flexible working options. The Government said it wanted to abandon the “cultural assumption” that flexible working arrangements are confined to parents and carers, and ensure the practice applies to all.
January 2015 marked seven months after the new flexible working legislation was introduced. According to research from O2 Business, less than a quarter of employees have chosen to adopt the flexible working arrangements.
The research found that out of more than 2,000 employees, 31% said they believed it is because of mistrust that is hampering a more widespread adoption of flexible working amongst employers.
A business culture that fails to embrace working out of the office and a lack of technology geared towards remote working were also cited as being flexible working barriers.
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 is still preventing the benefits that working flexibly brings, such as improved morale, high levels of employer loyalty and productivity gains.”
Given the benefits, including increased productivity and a more loyal workforce, should employers in the UK be taking more of a proactive stance on adopting the new flexible working arrangements?
Fully conversant with the new legislation
According to Richard Morris, UK CEO of virtual office provider’s Regus, even if businesses are not willing to adopt flexible practices they should, at least, be fully conversant with the legalisation and aware of the benefits it can provide for organisations.
A recent survey compiled by Regus found that 66% of respondents believe that the greater work/life balance flexible working provides creates a happier workforce.
Allowing employees to work outside the office also generates a feeling of trust and ultimately leading to a more satisfied and loyal set of 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, all employees, providing they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, have the legal right to request flexible working.
Dealing with flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner’
Employers are obliged to deal with the request in a “reasonable manner”. In order 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 request in a reasonable manner, the employee is within their rights to take the employer to an employment tribunal.
Of course we cannot ignore the fact that a vast majority of employers in Britain are, as the O2 Business research found, reluctant to embrace flexible working ethics.
The reason for this reluctance can largely be pinned on the fact flexible working is still synonymous with homeworking and the distractions and challenges working within the home environment.
Despite the many negative assumptions that are still widely associated with flexible working and the fact that many companies may still be daunted by the new legislation, this modern approach to working can no longer be ignored. If this sense, it could be that the savviest of employers are the ones taking a more proactive stance on flexible working arrangements.
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