EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS FLEXIBLE WORKING BILL – IF PASSED WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES?
A bill that could change worker rights is currently running through Parliament, this could mean that the freedom to flexible working will grant them from day one of their employment.
The second reading which was held in the commons on 28th October, if passed into law will introduce a requirement for employers to consult with employees before rejecting their flexible working request, and can allow employees to make two requests within a 12 month period as opposed to one.
It’s a great step in the right direction however it is certainly not enough to solve the existing problems relating to the barriers to flexible working, one of which is a waiting period of 26 weeks which has always been a barrier to flexible working a requirement rooted in distrust with the assumption that employees need to somehow prove themselves a suitable worker before they can work in a flexible way, this highlights the bill’s usefulness for those with specific need in the workplace. The bill would be particularly beneficial for those with disabilities, or that have children, as it should make it much easier for them to discuss their requirements of flexible arrangements at introduction to a potential new employer.
What can businesses do?
Encouraging strong communication from both side is key for a smooth process. Employers that fail to recognise that employees’ needs and expectations have changed over the last two years as a result of the Covid pandemic, where flexi-hours arrangements have become a priority, could suffer from reduced productivity and high turnover, we currently have a talent war, being transparent about flexible working arrangements could give a competitive advantage, if flexible working is not going to be an option, being open about this at the beginning will avoid wasting time and disengaging new candidates.
All businesses need to prepare for what this may mean for their organisation and whether they need to review job ads and interview and onboarding processes to ensure they are prepared for the change if the bill is passed, another consideration to keep in mind while preparing for the bill is that employees will be permitted to apply twice in a 12-month period for a change to working arrangements, and businesses will have to deal with a greater volume of requests, placing pressure on HR teams.
Although the bill has not passed we urge and advise businesses to make the change now, where they can and amend their internal policies and practices, although more than a third of businesses offer flexible working from day one, also important to remember that if employers introduce this bill now, they will likely form a contractual entitlement that must be adhered to. Should the bill later be dismissed, it will be difficult for employers to remove this as a contractual entitlement, so full consideration should be made before implementing any changes.
This legislation change will send an important signal to organisations that they need to create more opportunities around flexible working, which in turn will help to retain and recruit staff, encouraging other organisations to follow this example if they want to enhance their reputation and become employer of choice.