The Future is Flex: Navigating the New Flexible Working Bill

Put on your future-gazing glasses, because we’re heading into a new era of working. Imagine a world where your staff can work not just from the office, but from their cosy homes, bustling cafes, or even while soaking up the sun on a beach. What was once considered a privilege may be about to become the new norm. The UK’s Flexible Working Bill has finally received Royal Assent.

Now, let’s take a deep breath before we jump into either full-blown panic or unbridled celebrations, and break down what this means for us as business owners. It’s a victory for workers, certainly, but it’s also a test of our adaptability and forward-thinking prowess.

The Flexible Working Bill, which will soon be legally binding, signifies a paradigm shift in the UK’s working landscape.

The new rules of the game?

Although not explicitly stated in the legislation, all the Government announcements and the ACAS guidelines have told us that workers (not only employees) now have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job.

As employers, we are obligated to give serious consideration to these requests and provide clear reasons if we choose to reject them. The default position is that we MUST accept a statutory flexible working request, unless we are able to objectively rely on one of 8 reasons to reject it.

Changes to timeframes:

Employees can now make two requests in any 12 month period. This is up from one request per annum.

The conversation about these requests now needs to be wrapped up within two months, down from the previous three. That’s more paperwork in less time, folks!

But before we recoil at the thought of extra admin, let’s consider the benefits. Greater flexibility doesn’t just serve the workers. It also favours us, the business owner too. Research has shown that businesses that embrace flexible working attract more talent, foster better staff motivation, and experience lower staff turnover – all factors that bolster productivity and competitiveness.

Think about this: last year, 6% of employees switched jobs due to a lack of flexible options and 12% left their professions entirely because of this. Can we really afford to lose that talent in an era of skill shortages?

Yet, with new powers come new responsibilities. The Bill requires employers to have a meaningful consultation with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request. This isn’t a time for rubber-stamping. It’s a time for open conversation and genuine understanding. We’re moving from an era of ‘command and control’ to ‘collaborate and create’.

The implications are vast, but at the heart of it, the Bill is signifying a seismic shift in how we approach our working relationships. It’s no longer just about what happens between 9 to 5 in an office cubicle. It’s about how we can create a harmonious balance between life and work, leveraging flexibility to enhance productivity and job satisfaction.

So, what’s our game plan?

As business owners, we need to rethink how we manage our human resources. The key question we must ask ourselves is this: How can we make flexible working work for our business?

The task ahead is challenging, but I believe it’s a challenge worth embracing. After all, a happier, more engaged workforce means a more productive business. The road may be bumpy, but the rewards are immense.

So, are we ready to step into this brave new world of flexible working? Because ready or not, the future of work is coming, and it’s flex!

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, will be updating its statutory Code of Practice in light of the new legislation, to help us navigate these waters. The consultation was launched on July 12th, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

Let’s not just survive these changes, let’s thrive.

As always, we’re here to guide you through this journey. Let’s explore this brave new world of work together.