All aboard the flexible working train

By Matt Hayes | 15th August 2023

The benefits of flexible working have been well documented over the last few years. From enhanced employee wellbeing and improved work-life balance to increased productivity (and ultimate profit).

But the benefit to the employer is increased attraction and retention – and we all understand THAT flexible working benefit with a fiercely competitive talent pool. Are you all aboard the flexible working train?

Why are we talking about flexible working? Because the flexible working (formally Employment Relations) bill has passed. What is that?

Well, in short, under the new law, employees will have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job, with employers required to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection. Therefore, British workers will have more flexibility or where and when they work.

Technology is ahead of the curve

Technology was one of the first industries to have embraced flexible working as more ‘typical’ as an offering for future employees pre-Covid due to the nature of work and the digital tools available.

Turns out, that post-Covid, there is an expectation by talent that some form of flexible working is a standard in job offerings. Great news for technology businesses who had already adopted a flexible working or hybrid approach.

Certainly, here at Devonshire Hayes, it is the exception when we’re not adding a flexible working, agile or hybrid option to the technology jobs we’re advertising. And it’s certainly almost an expectation by in-demand technology talent that we speak to every day.

Does the flexible working bill fall short?

Many welcome the greater flexibility the new legislation will bring for employees, but some warn that it is not radical enough.

The employer decision period will be reduced from three months to two months and the requirement for employers to explain the impact on the organisation if they switched to flexible working will be removed. But, while the government said that “workers will have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job”, some have criticised that this is not explicitly stated in the bill. It’s bill adjacent, shall we say.

Where it falls short is that, “while there are some “notable changes”, some of sought after legislative reforms have not materialised, says Caroline Phillips, senior associate at Fladgate Law Firm.

“The eight statutory grounds for refusing a flexible working request will not change. Also, making the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right is to be dealt with in secondary legislation,” she says.

“For now, employees will still only be able to make requests once they have completed 26 weeks’ continuous service.”

All aboard the flexible working train

If you’re not already on it, it’s time to stop dithering and get on board. The CIPD had been campaigning for organisations (and the government) to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for some time.

Whilst campaigning, this body highlighted evidence (not that we need it) demonstrating greater flexibility resulted in higher levels of job satisfaction, wellbeing and ultimately, performance. And that’s just good for business.

Additionally, research by a large UK job board previously revealed that jobseekers searching for jobs offering flexible working, are more popular than four-day-week working arrangements.

While this bill has passed, it appears that it is still open for employers to determine the nature, length and content of any flexible working consultation. Therefore, you won’t see an immediate mass exodus from office-based to home working. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt your policies to be more (pardon the pun) flexible.

The point being that time is on your side with the law expected to come into force in 2024. So, we say don’t leave it to the last minute. It’s vital that management teams understand the implications of flexible working decisions and how to handle them correct.

What next?

Read up and ask employees before making wholesale changes to your (potentially already existing) agile working environments.

If you want to find out more about what employers are doing and what employees want, speak to our experienced team of IT recruiters today. We’re happy to act as a sounding board as you start to consider changes to your policies for you to make informed decisions, based on fact.

Matt Hayes


Sources: People Management