In February 2020, we called on organisations and the UK Government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right. Our research found that 46% of workers didn’t have any flexible working arrangements in their current roles, showing a huge disparity and clear reason for us to raise our voice on the subject.
#Flexfrom1st aims to encourage employers across the UK to support flexible working requests from the first day of employment instead of waiting until the current legislative time of 26 weeks. We want flexible working conversations to occur from the off, due to the clear benefits it brings to both the employer and employee. From improved mental and physical wellbeing to a better work-life balance, flexibility promotes an environment of inclusion, employee motivation and can support greater organisational agility A one size fits all approach doesn’t work for all businesses and sectors but there are many different types of flexible options that can be considered including compressed hours, flexitime, and job shares, to name a few.
The pandemic has changed the world of work forever
The COVID-19 pandemic made flexible working a necessity and many businesses had to quickly adapt to enforced home working and new ways of working. This shift to working lives showed employers the reality of flexibility and when businesses began to open up again, hybrid working became a popular choice for employees who could split time between the office and home.
Our evidence shows that flexible working helps to attract more talent and leads to higher levels of job satisfaction. 71% of organisations now advertise at least some vacancies as open to flexible working which is important for attracting and retaining a workforce. These are steps in the right direction, but more action is needed to ensure that the right to request flexible working becomes a day-one right, especially at a statutory level.
The re-convened Flexible Working Taskforce, which Peter Cheese co-chairs, has been developing policies and practices to support the move to ‘hybrid’ and other ways of working that emerged because of the pandemic. The taskforce is also responsible for improving the overall understanding of what more can be done to promote different types of flexible working and broader cultures of support.
So far, there has been much progress made, and two guides have been produced, including ACAS guidance on the legal implications of hybrid working and more in-depth guidance on how to embed and optimise hybrid working over the longer term. The taskforce will meet again in February to further look at these issues. All of this work is moving us closer to fairer and more equal hybrid and flexible working practices, which our campaign has been calling for the past year.
We are taking steps to make flexible working a reality for all
At the end of last year, we responded to the UK Government’s consultation on ‘making flexible working the default’ putting forward our call for the day-one right to request. We surveyed over 1,000 senior HR/decision-makers in the process, with 57% stating that they were in favour of a day-one right to request flexible working, helping us build our support for this policy change. Our response also called for a fairer method of requesting flexible working, including the right to make requests up to twice a year and the shortening of organisation’s response time to within one month.
Flexible working can be a reality today
In the absence of legislation changes, organisations can still proactively choose to support the day-one right to request. We have produced resources for both member and non-members including guidance for employers on managing flexible working requests and support for employees requesting flexible working. We also have a flexible working glossary which explains some commonly used terms and phrases in flexible working practices.
We’ll continue to raise awareness of the different types of flexible working and ways in which businesses can support colleagues and implement a flexible culture. We hope the consultation will bring about a positive legislation change and we’ll keep our members updated on the latest developments, as and when a response is announced.
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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.