This article has been written by Arch Risk Management, part of Health & Safety Click. To find out more, visit archriskmanagement.co.uk.
In the last few years employers have helped bring about significant changes in working practices, with many businesses adopting a greater flexibility to the working week and workplace location of staff.
This trend has resulted in further changes being proposed to the Flexible Working rules which are currently in place.
Currently, employees with a minimum of six months service have been entitled to apply for flexible working conditions since 2014. However, under the proposed new rules, UK employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment.
In addition to flexible working the new rules also aim to remove exclusivity clause restrictions, making it easier for employees to work simultaneously for multiple employers.
What is Flexible Working?
Primarily it accounts for any working arrangement that is not a standard 9 to 5, five-day week. Options can include:
- Working part-time that equates to anything less than a standard full-time working week.
- Hybrid Working — working from home and from the office or working entirely from home (homeworking).
- Job sharing — a type of part-time working where one full-time role is shared between more than one employee.
- Annual hours — an employee’s hours are expressed as a total number of hours to be worked over the course of a year. Hours of work may change regularly, but normally the pay and benefits are calculated as if the employee works the same hours each week. This could also include a term time arrangement where the employee takes paid/unpaid leave during the school holidays.
- Compressed/condensed hours — involves standard working hours but over a reduced number of days, e.g. working 10-hour days for four days rather than eight hours per day over five days.
- Flexi-time — where the employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but covers certain ‘core hours’ to achieve their contractual hours in the working week.
- Employee self-rostering/shift swapping — where employees (normally within a team) decide what shift they will work or swap shifts with colleagues to allow flexibility when they need it.
What’s Likely to Change?
- Currently, employees wait 26 weeks before being able to request flexible working, but under the new changes, the right to request flexible working will be from day one of employment.
- Whilst employees have a right to request flexible working, they don’t necessarily have the right to it. Employers can still reject a request on one of the eight existing business-related grounds, but they can no longer outright reject a request and must discuss alternative arrangements in consultation with the employee.
- Employer decisions on flexible working arrangement requests must now be made within two months; this was previously three.
- Currently, employees are only entitled to one statutory request in a 12-month period, they will now be able to make two. This will benefit employees whose personal circumstances change during the year.
- As it currently stands, when making a flexible working request, employees must explain how their request will affect the employer, but under the new rules, there is no longer a requirement to do so. This is considered fairer as certain employees, such as those who are junior or who have learning difficulties, would be at a disadvantage if required to do this.
- The new rules also aim to remove exclusivity clause restrictions for workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income of £123 a week or less. This will make it easier for low paid workers to boost their earnings by working for more than one employer on short-term contracts.
How Will the Changes Affect Employees and Employers?
The new rules should give employees greater control over their working lives, providing a better work-life balance and the ability to make time for other commitments.
Adopting a more flexible approach to working can also be beneficial to employers, the business benefits by having more productive and happier staff, improved staff retention, and access to a wider talent pool.
However, businesses may struggle if they have a deluge of flexible working requests, making it difficult to accommodate every request. With this in mind, flexible working should be considered during the job design, recruitment and appointment phase.
When are the Changes Likely to Take Place?
The government has confirmed its intentions to introduce the changes, so it’s likely that the new rules will be introduced sooner rather than later.
Therefore, now is a good time to review any flexible working policies and procedures, to ensure a smooth transition in accommodating the changes to be made to working procedures.
For any further advice and expertise, please speak with your Arch contact about Arch Risk Management services.