By Lyndsey Hall
From today, flexible working is no longer reserved for those with dependents, thanks to a change in the law. The government has extended the right to request flexible working hours to all employees; however this does not mean that a request will be automatically accepted, only that it must be considered “in a reasonable manner”.
Previously, only the parents of children under 16, or disabled children under 18, and carers, had the right to request flexible working hours.
The new law applies only if you have been with the company for at least 26 weeks, and the request must be made in writing, with details of what you propose, when it would start, and the potential effect on the employer and colleagues. The employer then has 3 months to consider the request, and if they refuse, they must give an explanation as to the ‘business reason’ why.
According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 20 million people now have the right to request flexibility, making many lives easier, and potentially improving business as ‘duvet days’ could drop and productivity could increase as a result.
“Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow.” Nick Clegg
The change comes just days after the government decided to ban employers from preventing staff on zero-hours contracts – those without guaranteed working hours – from taking on a second job. Employees will soon be free to seek additional employment to supplement their salary, without being stopped by their employer.
With the introduction of modern workplace advancements such as Cloud Computing and Hot Desking, offering flexibility to employees is simpler than ever. Staff can remotely connect to your company server from home, on the train, or even from the local coffee shop. And when the time comes to pop into the office; hot desking allows businesses to maximise the space they have, rather than moving to a bigger, more expensive location, making growing your business less of a hassle, and allowing staff to pop in and out, as and when they need.
“It’s about time we brought working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families,” says Clegg.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is concerned that it is still too easy for employers to say no. “There is nothing to stop employers saying no. Of course not everyone in every company or organisation is able to work flexibly – some requests will always need to be turned down. But without the right to challenge employers, many workers will continue to lose out.” O’Grady believes that employees should also be given the opportunity to appeal against a rejected request.
While the change could be extremely positive for thousands of businesses and workers alike, there are many small businesses that are not in a position to offer flexibility due to budgetary constraints or logistical issues. And, of course, for many businesses, such as the retail industry, staff working from home or choosing their own hours is just not practical.
To find out more about the right to request flexible working, visit Acas website.
What do you think about the new legislation? How will your business handle flexible working hours? Perhaps you’ve had a flexible workforce for years, and have some advice for other business owners? Sound off in the Comments.