Flexible working will become the ‘new normal’.  

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Amazon made an unexpected announcement last week when it unveiled plans to offer term-time only contracts to its warehouse employees. These flexible working contracts mean parents and guardians of school-age children will have the opportunity to enjoy extended holidays during summer, Easter, and Christmas breaks. These employees will still be entitled to all the benefits of full-time workers. 

Amazon’s decision reflects a growing recognition of the importance of flexible working arrangements in today’s workforce.

The rise of flexible working…

Flexible working has been gaining momentum as a new standard in the employment landscape. In response to a UK Government consultation, millions of employees will soon have the right to request flexible working from the very first day of their employment. 

It’s not just about working from home rather than being in the office anymore. Flexible working encompasses a range of options such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed hours, annualized hours, and staggered schedules. This shift provides employees with greater control over when, where, and how they work, with reports suggesting resulting  in improvements to job satisfaction and productivity.

Change is coming

Following the conclusion of the flexible working consultation, the Government has announced that it plans to introduce significant changes to the current legislation. The proposed measures seek to increase employees’ rights and experiences in requesting flexible working arrangements. 

Key changes include:

1. Day One Right: Employees will be able to request flexible working from the first day of their employment.

2. Consultation Requirement: Employers will be required to consult with employees before rejecting their flexible working requests.

3. Increased Statutory Requests: Employees will be allowed to make up to two statutory requests within a 12-month period, as opposed to the current limit of one.

4. Streamlined Decision Period: The decision period for a statutory flexible working request will be reduced to two months, rather than the existing three.

5. Removal of Requirement: The employee will no longer need to explain the potential impact of their requested change on the employer or how any effects might be managed.

The Benefits:

The new measures implemented by the government aim to create a more harmonious work-life balance for employees. Flexible working arrangements are particularly valuable for individuals with responsibilities outside of work, such as caring for children or vulnerable family members. 

Research has consistently shown that flexibility in work schedules helps employees effectively manage their personal commitments while meeting their professional obligations. By fostering a healthier balance between work and home life, flexible working can lead to happier and more motivated staff.

Looking ahead…

The Government’s response to the consultation also includes additional commitments to improve the flexible working landscape. These include developing guidance to raise awareness and understanding of temporary requests for flexible working and launching a call for evidence to gain further insights into informal flexible working practices. 

By actively exploring different avenues, the Government says it aims to refine the policies and frameworks surrounding flexible working, ensuring that employees have every opportunity to balance their professional and personal lives as effectively as possible.

In summary…

As flexible working becomes the new norm, and once initial obstacles are overcome, there’s a real chance that both employers and employees could benefit. It could enable many individuals to fulfil their personal responsibilities while continuing their careers, which may bring experience and knowledge back into the employment market that would otherwise be lost. It may also help business owners who can’t compete on salary to find creative ways to retain experience and expertise within the business.

The challenge for employers is going to be managing the process, and potentially in adjusting the business to take account of these requirements.

Our advice would definitely be to speak to your HR advisor to be clear about what may be coming down the line and start to give some thought to your team’s potential requests. Get clear on the rules around Flexible Working, and what you can and can’t do around the process before you receive the first request.

Bearing the forthcoming changes in mind and the potential for more frequent requests in mind as you make business decisions could be a smart move.

Click the link to read the full details of the Government Response.

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