Requesting Flexible Work Made Legal Right From Day One

In a post-pandemic world, everybody is familiar with the idea of flexible working. Whether it involves remote work from the comforts of home or local cafes or the abandonment of traditional 9-5 schedules, it’s clear that adhering strictly to conventional work norms is becoming an increasingly distant concept.

But while many of us may want to shake up our usual schedules and throw away the concept of traditional working – and, indeed, many of us already have – this doesn’t mean that flexible working has been a universal right. Until now.

Earlier this week, employees nationwide gained the right to request flexible working arrangements from their first day on the job. While, of course, there is no guarantee they will be granted this right, this new regulation signals a progressive step towards a more liberated and unrestricted working world.

The Flexible Working Regulation

 
Previously, the right to request flexible working only kicked in after an employee had completed 26 weeks with their employer. However, a recent report from Sky News sheds light on the evolution of this rule, potentially benefiting millions of workers by enhancing their work-life balance.

Despite the surge in popularity of flexible working in our post-pandemic landscape, regulations allowing flexible working are by no means a new revelation. The concept and its application were initially introduced under Tony Blair’s government in the early 2000s, allowing parents of young children and caregivers of minors to request flexible arrangements.

However, it’s in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that the significance of these regulations has been underscored. Building on the Flexible Working Regulations of 2023, which received Royal Assent in July, Kevin Hollinrake, the business and trade minister has endorsed this latest measure as a means to cultivate “a happier workforce [leading to] increased productivity,” as reported by Sky News.

The Demand for Flexible Working

 
Indeed, since the pandemic, there has understandably been an increasing demand for the acceptance of flexible working. Notably, Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, emphasises that the recent legislation has been fast-tracked due to heightened “understanding” and the “demand for it”.

Mr Cheese highlights that the new law “stands to benefit millions of people, helping them to balance their work and life commitments and give them more say and more opportunity in where and how they work”.

He emphasised that flexibility around time, scheduling and workplace locations could be “transformative”, particularly for those with health conditions, caregiving responsibilities, or those seeking to pursue other life choices.

“With an ageing population and rising levels of economically inactive people due to ill health, flexible working is more important than ever, and has been shown to support better wellbeing, making it good for individuals as well as organisations” he added.

Effective from April 6th, employers are required to engage in consultations with employees before refusing a request for flexible working. While they may refuse requests based on factors such as cost implications, potential negative effects on performance, or the inability to hire additional team members, this marks a significant stride toward the broader adoption of flexible working strategies.

Impact of Flexible Working on Startups

 
Startups are inherently versatile, naturally thriving on innovation and adaptability to survive. This is a necessity for fledgling businesses, given the various challenges they encounter and the need to navigate through uncertainty, it’s no surprise that embracing flexible working arrangements may align well with their ethos.

Consequently, the introduction of this new law could be particularly advantageous for startups, encouraging them to adopt flexible working policies for their teams and thus enabling the business to reap the benefits associated with this approach.

Naturally, startups have a range of flexible working options to consider. Whether it’s part-time arrangements, job sharing, staggered hours, or embracing hybrid and remote work setups, they should explore what suits their circumstances best. Of course, the traditional 9-5 office setup may still be the best working method for some startups, but there’s little harm in exploring how employees might benefit from more flexible working models and this may indeed bring great benefits to your business as a whole.

Let’s delve into some of the key benefits that flexible working can offer startups, shedding light on how this new regulation could positively impact the dynamic and ever-expanding startup landscape in the UK.
 

Benefits of Flexible Working for Startups

 

  • Cost Savings: Particularly for cash-strapped startups looking to save their pennies where they can, flexible working can help startups save on overhead costs associated with office space and utilities. Instead of, for example, needing to have a permanent office full-time, they could rent one part-time or explore other hot desk or co-working options.
  • Parental Advantages: The benefits of flexible working are obvious for parents, particularly mothers with young children. In such situations, flexible working is often a necessity for parents, and a startup offering flexible working arrangements can be a huge incentive for getting on board.
  • Employee Retention: Speaking of the attractions of flexible working for parents, this is not true only of parents. Plenty of people may be incentivised to work for a startup that offers flexible working arrangements, helping this way of working be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent.
  • Tap Into Global Talent: There’s a lot to be said for going into an office where one can socialise daily with their team. However, these days, thanks to the revelations of digital technology, work can be completed from practically anywhere in the world. Opening your startup to remote working options can therefore help you tap into the global talent pool and hire the best talent regardless of geographic location.
  • Productivity & Well-Being: Not only can flexible working arrangements contribute to higher levels of employee satisfaction and well-being thanks to encouraging a better work-life balance, but this flexibility can also increase productivity. Employees who have more control over their time and don’t feel stressed over their work schedules are likely to be more engaged, motivated, and satisfied in their jobs, thus leading to lower company turnover rates.