Here at the Fairness, Inclusion & Respect (FIR) Programme we will be pausing to celebrate and prioritise the delicate equilibrium between our professional and personal lives. From 2nd to 6th October, it’s National Work Life Week, a week dedicated to recognising the importance of work-life balance, promoting wellbeing in the workplace, and championing family-friendly working practices.
This year, as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of work, it’s important to remember flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all concept; rather, flexibility requires an inclusive approach that accommodates the unique needs of every individual, no matter their background or profession.
Join us in exploring the importance of workplace flexibility, as we delve into the world of flexible working, the new Flexible Working Bill, and the positive changes that are reshaping the way we work and live. We will be sharing resources from the FIR Programme to help you on your journey to making flexible working work for you!
National Work Life Week is not just a calendar event; it’s a call to action, an opportunity to reshape the future of work in a way that benefits us all.
Unlocking the Benefits of Flexible Working: A New Era of Employee Rights
In an era where work-life balance has become increasingly vital, the importance of flexible working cannot be overstated. It’s not just a matter of convenience; it’s a fundamental shift towards accommodating the diverse needs of the modern workforce. And now, with the introduction of the new Flexible Working Bill, flexible working is not just an option; it’s the law.
The Evolution of Flexible Working
Flexible working has evolved from being a ‘nice-to-have’ perk to a crucial aspect of modern employment. It recognises that employees have varying needs and responsibilities outside of the workplace, whether it’s caring for family members, pursuing further education, or simply maintaining a healthier work-life balance.
The concept of flexible working has grown beyond the traditional nine-to-five office job. It encompasses remote work, compressed workweeks, job sharing, and flexible start and finish times. The pandemic further accelerated this shift, with many businesses embracing remote work arrangements to adapt to changing circumstances.
The Importance of Flexible Working
Flexible working offers a multitude of benefits, both to employees and employers:
- Improved work-life balance:
- Flexible working empowers individuals to better manage their personal lives, reducing stress and burnout. Employees can allocate time for family, hobbies, and self-care, leading to increased job satisfaction and overall well-being.
- Enhanced productivity:
- Research consistently shows that employees who have control over their work schedules are more productive. They can choose when and where they work best, resulting in higher efficiency and output. Obviously we need competent managers and team members to realise the biggest productivity advantages through flexible working.
- Attracting and retaining talent:
- Offering flexible working options is a powerful recruitment tool. It helps companies attract top talent, especially those who prioritise work-life balance including carers and those returning to the workforce after illness or a career break. Additionally, it enhances employee retention by promoting job satisfaction.
- Reduced commute and carbon footprint:
- Remote work reduces the need for daily commutes, saving employees time and reducing traffic congestion. It also contributes to a decrease in carbon emissions, aligning with environmental sustainability goals.
- Adaptation to special circumstances:
- Flexible working allows employees to adapt to unique life situations, such as parental responsibilities, health concerns, or pursuing further education. This adaptability fosters a more inclusive workplace.
The Flexible Working Bill: Empowering Parents and Carers
The legislation will come into effect in 2024, marking a monumental shift in the landscape of employment rights. This change grants people the invaluable right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. Additionally, it elevates the right to request flexible working to twice per year.
This forward-looking legislation is a substantial stride toward establishing flexible working as the default rather than the exception in the modern workplace. It opens doors for countless individuals, enabling them to experience the myriad advantages of flexible working arrangements.
The key provisions of the Flexible Working Bill include:
- Consultation requirement: Employers must consult with employees before rejecting their flexible working requests, promoting transparency and fairness.
- Multiple requests: Workers can make two statutory requests for flexible working in any 12-month period, instead of the previous limit of one.
- Reduced waiting times: Employers are now required to make decisions on statutory requests within two months, down from the previous three months.
- Simplified process: The legislation eliminates the need for employees to explain the potential impact of their requested changes on the employer. This streamlines the process and removes potential barriers.
These changes expand the scope of the entitlement, benefiting approximately 2.2 million more employees. It acknowledges that flexible working is not just a privilege for a select few but a right for all.
A Call for Evidence: Non-Statutory Flexible Working
In addition to the measures in the Flexible Working Bill, the government is launching a call for evidence on non-statutory flexible working. This initiative aims to enhance our understanding of informal flexible working arrangements and their role in meeting the diverse needs of both employers and employees.
To wrap up, the introduction of the Flexible Working Bill is a landmark moment in the world of employment. It signals a shift towards a more inclusive and adaptable workforce, where individual needs and responsibilities are valued. Flexible working is no longer a perk but a fundamental right that empowers both employees and employers.
As the workforce continues to evolve, embracing flexible working practices is not just about compliance with the law; it’s about embracing the future of work, where everyone can thrive, regardless of their unique circumstances.
Flexible working isn’t limited to office-based environments either. These resources focus on flexible working on site as well:
- Improving Flexible Working Practices Within Civil Engineering
- Construction Pioneers Flexible Working Trial: One Year On
- How to improve flexible working for workers on site?
Check out the Fairness, Inclusion & Respect Programme Resources to help you implement flexible working practices that work for everyone:
- Working families: Model policies, guides, case studies and advice that provide support for mothers and fathers at work
- The law on flexible working: Clear guidance for employers on legal responsibilities around flexible working and how to address them
- Government Advice on Flexible working: A summary of the employers’ legal requirements, and employees’ rights, in regard to flexible working
- FIR: Flexible Working: A summary of flexible working, what the benefits are to all staff, and how you can incorporate it into your business.
- Better ways of working: flexible working: Constructing Excellence review of perceived barriers to flexible working and how they might be overcome.
- Statement from Working Families on the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill Receiving Royal Assent
- Millions to benefit from new flexible working measures – Department for Business and Trade and Kevin Hollinrake MP
Written by Saira Khan, Conference & Outreach Officer for the Fairness, Inclusion & Respect Programme.