The Flexible Working Employment Bill

How will it affect your company?

Rose McCarter-Field

By Rose McCarter-Field

How would the proposed new flexible working legislation affect your company? Do you welcome the change? Does your workplace suit flexible working? Have you already made this change? Or are you concerned about business impact?

Despite delays in passing the updated Employment Bill, flexible working is set to be made an everyday right for employees. It enables employees to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. 

Flexible Working Example: Deutsche Bank

At Deutsche Bank many employees have requested 1-2 days working remotely. To better suit their lives.

The firm have found that staff have more time to work instead of travel. Staff became more purposeful in their communication.

Staff became more available for virtual meetings as location was less inhibitive. Communication in teams and across hierarchies was no longer constrained by their geographically separated offices.

Presently employees have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment, but employers are allowed to refuse these requests without providing a reason.

Once the bill is passed, employees will be able to take legal cases against their employers if their requests are refused. The new legislation is designed to support a new work-life balance. It is intended to enable staff to work where possible, in a manner that enables a reasonable quality of life. The Financial Times describes it as a ‘new work-life balance law’.

The new bill would support parents, carers, and pregnant women in the workplace, among others. For example, any employee with a child under the age of 12, or an employee caring for a relative will have the right to request reduced or flexible working hours.

Balancing Parenting and Work Example: Zurich

Companies including Zurich have reported instances of new fathers and mothers balancing their working arrangements with their family needs.

Examples include flexible hours to allow for childcare and helping children with their homework. This can include compressed hours, where parents go home early on certain days whilst working late on other days.

Since its announcement 3 years ago in the Queens Speech, global approaches to flexible working practices have changed following the pandemic. The bill was originally proposed in the UK due to concerns over working conditions in factories and warehouses. The context of the bill has evolved following changing views on working practices. The proposed changes would most notably open up more work opportunities for parents, carers, and people with disabilities. The government estimates that 2.2 million people will gain access to different working arrangements as a result of this bill.

Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute, an industry body, said that “Many parts of the bill have risen to even greater prominence in the pandemic, making the rights to a modern workplace more important for marginalised groups such as women, and those from poorer backgrounds and ethnic minorities,” she said. “This is exactly the sort of legislation we need to build back better and level up the UK.”

1) Financial Times, 2022
2) Independent, 2022

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