The new Flexible Working Bill, success or still falling behind the curve?
The advent of technology has transformed the way businesses operate, paving the way for remote work opportunities. This shift has been especially significant for finance professionals who can now carry out their responsibilities from the comfort of their homes. While the prospect of working remotely offers numerous advantages, it also brings along certain challenges.
Now the rules will be changing very soon, as of the 20th of July 2023 the government published a press release regarding their Flexible Working Bill. It has the aim to make working from home easier for employees to access and apply for. While the majority of employers and employees know the positives and negatives of flexible working, what does this bill bring to the table?
The bill is predicted to take effect immediately after receiving royal assent on the 20th July.. Said to be delivering on a 2019 manifesto pledge from the conservatives (Despite being sponsored by mostly labour MPs), it’s taken almost 5 years for the bill to come to fruition. The biggest change noted is the previous requirement of 26 weeks of continuous services to be able to apply for flexible working. It is also important to note here that flexible working does not just entail working from home. It also encompasses other flexible working arrangements such as Flexitime, Job sharing, and Compressed, Staggered and Annualised hours.
The change means employees can now request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment, and they can now put forward a request twice every 12 months (Up from the previous figure of just once every 12 months). Employers now also have to respond to these requests quicker, within a timeframe of 2 months from the initial request (Down from 3 months previously).
While this is a big win for employees, it is important to note that the bill does not force employers to accept these requests more than before. One of the key parts is the emphasis on transparency between the worker and management. Managers will now have to explore other working arrangements before denying the request altogether. They also have to give appropriate reasoning for potentially denying the request as well, if not then the employee has the option of going to an employment tribunal to dispute the outcome.
In 2016 it was reported that up to only 9% of jobs were advertised as flexible working, while in 2023 it has increased to 58%. An incredible increase in just 7 years. While the bill is definitely a step in the right direction as a response to the change in demand for flexible working, does it go far enough?
Written by Alexsander Perkins