Flexible Working Bill | Over half of UK workers ready to take advantage of new flexible working laws

Over half of UK workers ready to take advantage of new flexible working laws

Businesses are being advised to brace themselves as a new study reveals more than half (55%) of employees are planning to make a new request for flexible working when new rules come into UK law this weekend.

The changes introduced by the Flexible Working Bill on April 6 - allowing workers to ask for flexible working from day one of their employment (previously six months) - look set to lead to a sharp increase in flexible working requests even though 74% of employees report already having some degree of flexibility.

The research conducted among 1,000 UK desk workers by the AI-powered platform for work, Slack, is designed to help businesses anticipate what the rule changes could mean to them and better understand employee expectations when it comes to work. Today, many UK employees regularly work from home (56%), have flexible working days (54%), or work a four-day week (30%). Yet a quarter of people (25%) are not currently offered flexible working.

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The repercussions of not offering flexible working, from missed talent to a decline in growth

The majority of workers believe the ability to work flexibly boosts their productivity (80%) and will help their company grow quicker (74%). Yet the top reasons for employees believing their employers have declined requests for flexible work, are due to concerns it may negatively impact productivity (17%) and work quality levels (17%).

Businesses that do not meet employee expectations when it comes to flexibility risk losing talent. 70% of workers are more likely to apply for a job based on the company’s flexible working policy - increasing to 76% for those aged 18-34.

Are businesses ready to embrace more flexible working? Preparing for the bill changes based on worker demands

Despite over three quarters (78%) of managers and above understanding what the Flexible Working Bill means for them and the organisations they work for, many (57%) are concerned about receiving new and more requests for flexible working. And a staggering 72% of businesses have not yet proactively shared information on the latest rules with their employees.

Right now, employees are most comfortable making a request for the following:

  • Flexible hours (76%)

  • Work from home (70%)

  • Compressed hours (65%)

The study also reveals employees least comfortable requesting:

  • Work outside of the UK (45%)

  • Job sharing (40%)

  • Work a four-day week (33%)

Technology’s vital role in enabling effective flexible working

Flexible working - whether businesses are currently offering it already or not - need not be a worry if organisations have the right tools and processes to enable effective alignment, information sharing and asynchronous work. According to the majority of workers (83%), technology is an enabler of productive flexible working - rising to 95% for employees who work from home. Almost three quarters (73%) say flexible working is possible thanks to communication and collaboration tools that help enable synchronous and asynchronous work, and help reduce the need for meetings. The data also reveals more than 2 in 5 (40%) of companies are using AI to support flexible working by using it to improve productivity and eliminate labour intensive tasks, like finding and recapping information.

Chris Mills, Global Head of Customer Success at Slack said: “The way we work, and employees’ expectations about work, have fundamentally changed over the past few years and flexibility is a key part of that. The research shows it’s an important consideration for people today, and the Flexible Working Bill has brought it back into focus for employees and management. Success hinges on more than just granting employees the freedom to work when and where they want. It requires creating intentional in-person moments alongside thoughtful approaches to technology that enables seamless collaboration, connection and access to information.

“Businesses are right to look at AI as helping in this area as well - we’re already seeing customers save 97 minutes a week on average using Slack AI - which is time that can be deployed elsewhere or unlock greater flexibility.”

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