A new Bill that further entrenches the right for employees to access flexible working are a step closer to becoming law. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has already cleared the House of Commons and has recently passed unopposed through a second reading in the House of Lords.
But what will it mean for employers and recruitment?
The headline change will see the 26 week qualifying period that an employee has to be in post for before requesting flexible working reduced to a day one right.
The Bill also includes other measures that affect how an employer responds to flexible working, including:
- Requiring employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request
- Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period, rather than only one as currently allowed
- Reducing the time limit for an employer to respond to a flexible working request from three to two months
- Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer
The Bill will also allow around 1.5million of Britain’s lowest paid workers to work more flexibly and boost their income through extra work by protecting them from exclusivity clauses that restrict them from working for multiple employers. The government hopes that this move will help businesses plug crucial staffing gaps by giving employers access to recruit from a wider talent pool.
As an employer, should you wait until the Bill passes into law before taking action?
Our advice is to consider implementing this now rather than waiting for the legislation. The new laws will give people the right to request flexible working. If there is a genuine business reason why this cannot be accommodated, then you will still be able to reject that even once the law is in place. Ignoring the huge rise in numbers of people who want flexible working until you absolutely can't anymore will not make the challenges go away. Recent research from the CIPD suggests that an estimated 4 million people have changed careers due to a lack of flexible working options, while an estimated 2 million have left a job in the last year for the same reason. They are now warning employers who don’t adopt a flexible approach to working that they face a talent exodus.
In a recent UK government press release on flexible working bill, the government set out its hopes that this Bill will increase mobility in a tough job market by removing the flexible working barrier to changing jobs. They also argue that the raft of new flexible working measures will lead to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.
The government also cites the business case for flexible working. By removing some of the invisible restrictions to jobs, they say flexible working creates a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns.
As an employer, this new raft of measures might seem a little unfairly skewed towards employees and ignorant of the challenges employers have faced since the COVID pandemic of re-engaging and motivating their workforce. However, our approach when helping clients recruit and retain a talented team is to be open minded about how the roles can be fulfilled in a way that works for both of you. Give and take is the name of the game in recruitment right now. That definitely cuts both ways for employer and employee as we discussed in a recent blog. However, when employers are proactive on this front it tends to lead to a greater willingness from candidates to 'meet them in the middle'. After all, we all want the same thing - to do a job well, get great results and feel satisfied and fulfilled at work.
Tom Waddell is a recruitment consultant with over 30 years of experience. He's worked with business across the UK to place great candidates in roles of all levels from C-Suite to junior positions. If you are looking to recruit in the near future but are worried about how you should approach flexible working in order to attract the best candidates, give Tom a call on +44(0)7960 354441 or email