Legal Eagle | The Flexible Working Bill: How will it affect the workplace?

The Flexible Working Bill: How will it affect the workplace?

Deep Dive

While flexible working may be all the rage, it’s still not a legally protected worker’s right. And with many in Government calling for the erosion of basic worker’s rights, there seems no time like the present for this Bill to be supported. Read on to find out the intricacies of the proposed new law...

Currently, despite flexible working/hours being literally the number one thing that employees in every age bracket say means most to them, flexible working arrangements are legally at the discretion of employers. In addition, employees currently don’t have the right to ask for flexible arrangements before theyh’ve given their employer 26 weeks of continuous service.

But not all employers are refusing to grant these requests for malicious reasons – some employers need in-person staff on a full-time basis; some could offer remote or part-time working, but the pandemic has stirred up many changes in the workplace and flexible/remote working requirements were leading examples of how worker’s took charge.

To understand your right to request and take flexible working you would need to review your contract of employment and staff policies and handbooks. You would need to approach your employer and make a request for their consideration. Providing the decision is not discriminatory, they can ultimately decide yes, no or they ca offer an alternative.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Bill, or ‘the Bill’) seeks to change this. Will this be complicated for employers, or will it promote a healthy workplace?

Karen Holden, founder of A City Law Firm, has shared her exclusive insight and advice for HR Grapevine readers.

What the flexible working bill means for HR and the workplace

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Bill) was first introduced to Parliament in June 2021 by Labour MP (the Labour MP for Bolton South East) Yasmin Qureshi. The aim of the Bill was to champion flexibility and to allow all workers the legal right to request flexible working from day one of their employment instead of the current 26 weeks’ continuous service.

The Bill had its second reading in the Commons on Friday 28 October and if ultimately passed, employers would be required to make it clear in job advertisements if flexible working is included in the job package. The Bill would afford two opportunities to make a flexible working request in a 12-month period as opposed to one, which is the current position. This would also introduce a new requirement on employers to consult with employees before rejecting their request and employers would have two months (previously three months) to make a decision. As such, whilst the request is now possibly less restrictive, ultimately the employer may still reject the proposal.

As we move into a new post-pandemic world employers need to be more proactive and innovative to attract and retain staff.

What does flexible working look like?

Although the pandemic has been one of the biggest triggers forcing businesses to implement flexible working, it has nevertheless been around for years and has been implemented in working policies. Flexible working is an alternative to traditional working hours. There are many different ways one can work flexibly. These include:

  1. Part-time working – employees work less than the traditional 9-5 core hours or less days per week.
  2. Working from home – employees will spend all or part of their week working from home or somewhere that is not the office.
  3. Job sharing – two employees agree to split the hours of a full-time job between themselves.
  4. Compressed hours – employees fit a 40-hour week into fewer days, usually four instead of the standard five.
  5. Flexi-time – employees benefit from the freedom to work in any way they choose and at any time outside of their contractual hours.

What are the benefits of flexible working?

The FWB has sparked a lot of positive commentary and sent vital messages to businesses that they need to create more opportunities around flexible working. Now, more than ever, flexible working is a key player in helping businesses to rebuild as society learns how to live with COVID-19. It can assist working parents ; those facing increased travel costs and assist with a work life balance and reducing mental wellness concerns.

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