It’s funny to think that it was just 20 years ago that the right to flexible working was first implemented for some parents in the UK (TUC). It was over the next decade (2014) that this right was gradually adapted so it was accessible to everyone after 26 weeks of employment (UK Government). In November 2022, the government laid out plans for employees to have this right from day one of employment (Gov.uk). This Bill is currently progressing through parliament and is expected to be passed in 2023.
Considering the super speed at which how, when and where we work has changed over the past three years, it’s clear that previous legislation on the right to request flexible working is considerably outdated.
The world of work has changed in unprecedented ways since March 2020. Being forced to implement remote working meant organisations needed to immediately adapt. Though we were all thrown in at the deep end, it redefined the way we work for the better.
What became apparent, was businesses could still successfully function using a remote working structure. While this isn’t the case for all companies or roles, it has meant that many companies adopted working patterns that also work for their workforce, rather than taking a one size fits all approach. The workforce is asking for greater flexibility and these changes lend themselves well to this and to the latest plans outlined by the government. With the talent market moving into the hands of candidates, businesses need flexibility to be at the heart of their offering. The experience of the last few years has led many people to reassess what’s important in their career. In fact, 77% of workers said they wanted more flexibility in their hours in order to have more control over their work/life balance, according to a study of 10,000 people globally (UKTN, 2022).
2022 figures from the ONS show that there were 1.3 million vacancies in the UK in May last year (increasing by 20,000 from previous figures) (ONS, 2022). With not enough people with the right skills to fill positions, candidates have the pick of the crop, creating challenges for businesses with multiple open roles.
The right to request flexible working from day one means increased job accessibility for those who don’t have the option to work a standard full-time 9-5 job. This will hopefully lead to a greater number of candidates with the right talent and skills, as well as a more diverse working environment and workforce (Gov.uk).
Not only is this good news for talent attraction, but it will positively impact retention and productivity, as employees are able to shape their working patterns around building a greater work/life balance.
At iCrossing, we understand that there isn’t one approach to supporting people in the work environment – it’s about each individual. We’ve always been committed to giving our teams flexible ways of working from the moment they start with us, whether this is through a formal flexible working request or through our additional benefits like Flex10. This consists of core hours from 9.30am to 4.00pm, with each employee having 10 hours of flexible time a week to make their days work for them. We also offer Together Time, whereby employees can take two hours off, three times a year, to spend time with those they love, whether it’s a at a nativity play, or a dog walk on the beach – we know it’s the small things that really count the most.
However, it’s important that everyone recognises that flexibility is an evolution. We’re continually adapting to the needs of iCrossers and what supports them the most. What works today, may not work for our teams in five years’ time. We will always listen to the needs and opinions of our employees because they’re who make the business what it is.
It’s clear that the latest plans on flexible working from the UK government have been a long time coming. However, UK businesses can go far beyond these to offer something unique to their workforces. Doing the bare minimum and offering a standardised approach to working will only hold companies back from accessing the skills and talent they desperately need, alongside creating a truly diverse workforce.
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