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Flexible working changes explained, and how to prepare

Millions of UK workers will have more flexibility over when and where they work as the Flexible Working Bill is granted Royal Assent.

The aim of the Act — expected to come into force next summer — is to enhance recruitment, retention and diversity in the workforce. The Equality and Human Rights Commission believes it'll also help promote inclusivity and productivity.

Flexible working encompasses various aspects like hours, patterns (part-time, flexi-time, etc) and locations (e.g home or satellite offices).

It is anticipated the changes will lead to increased employment opportunities, especially for caregivers, a narrowing in the gender pay gap, and greater inclusion of disabled workers, boosting job satisfaction and diversity.

While the Act is unlikely to have a big impact on how employers handle flexible work requests, proactive policy adjustments can help them embrace the new rules.

Businesses should also see a benefit, with flexible policies helping to attract more talent, boost motivation and retain staff, ultimately raising productivity and competitiveness.

Key changes under the Act

  • Employees can make two statutory requests annually (up from one)

  • Employees need not detail the employer impact or its resolution

  • Employers must decide within two months

  • Employers must consult before rejecting requests

  • New employees can request flexible work from day one, via separate Regulations

  • Acas is updating its Code of Practice on flexible work, extending those accompanying employees in meetings and requiring clearer rejection justifications with appeal options

What employers need to do

  • Revise policies, considering Acas guidelines

  • Establish clear guidelines for flexible work processes

  • Invest in tech for remote collaboration

  • Train managers in evaluating requests and managing diverse schedules

  • Foster open communication with employees

  • Anticipate the impact of the changes

Research by CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) shows that 6 percent of employees switched jobs due to limited flexibility, and 12 percent left their careers because of sector-specific rigidity. This equates to almost 2 and 4 million workers respectively.

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