Understanding The Flexible Working Bill

11th May 2023

What is the Flexible Working Bill?

Also known as The Employment Relations Bill is a new piece of legislation aimed at expanding the flexible working rights for employees, with the aim of promoting work-life balance and well-being. 

The bill understands that employees from all backgrounds and circumstances could benefit from having flexible working arrangements. Whether that be those, who have personal commitments, health concerns, or simply prefer a more flexible work structure. The proposed changes of the bill aim to create a more fair and inclusive system that empowers employees to seek the flexibility they need in order to achieve an improved work-life balance.

The provisions of the Flexible Working Bill 

The provisions of The Flexible Working Bill focus on prioritising employee rights to create more inclusive and flexible working environments. Some of the main provisions of the bill include:

The right to request flexible working

The bill proposes that all employees, not just parents and caregivers, have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment. This expansion allows for a greater level of flexibility for all individuals, regardless of their life circumstances.

Reasonable consideration of requests

The Flexible Working Bill also emphasises the importance of employers considering all flexible working requests. It mandates that employers must consult with their employees before turning down a request, ensuring open and transparent communication between both parties. This encourages employers to find a solution that works for both the business and the employee's needs.

Allowing multiple requests

Under the proposed bill, employees will have the opportunity to make two flexible working requests within any 12-month period. This provision recognises that circumstances may change over time and allows employees to revisit their work arrangements when necessary.

Timely response to requests

The bill aims to streamline the process by requiring employers to respond to flexible working requests within two months instead of the previous three-month timeframe. This faster response time provides employees with clarity and enables them to plan their work arrangements accordingly.

Removal of the impact assessment requirement

The bill eliminates the requirement for employees to outline how a flexible working request might impact the employer. This change acknowledges that the focus should be on finding mutually beneficial solutions that prioritise employee well-being while still considering the needs of the business.

Flexible working as the default

This provision encourages employers to embrace flexible work arrangements as the default option whenever feasible. It recognises the value of flexibility in modern work environments and acknowledges its positive impact on employee satisfaction, productivity, and well-being. By adopting flexible working as the default, employers can create a supportive and adaptable work culture.

The challenges and considerations for employers 

Although the Flexible Working Bill brings many benefits to both companies and employees, it's important to acknowledge and address the challenges that come with it. Here are some key considerations that employees should think about in order to navigate the new bill:

Adapting organisational structure

Introducing flexible working policies will require organisational structures to change and make accommodations for remote work, job sharing and other flexible schedules. Employers will need to carefully consider how to manage communication, decision-making processes, and accountability in what will be a decentralised work environment. It's all about finding the right balance that works for your team.

Managing scheduling and team collaboration

To allow for seamless collaboration, employers need strategies in place that promote effective communication and coordination among team members. This means taking into account different work hours, time zones, and availability. Embracing instant messaging tools like Slack, scheduling tools, and clear communication channels can make teamwork smoother and more efficient.

Addressing productivity concerns

Employers often express concerns about the impact of flexible working on productivity. Instead, employers should focus on creating a culture of trust and open communication supported by clear performance expectations and measurable goals. By shifting the focus from hours worked to output achieved, businesses can define and refine their expectations for employee productivity.

At Flexa, we fully embrace the principles of autonomy and freedom within boundaries while emphasising the importance of setting clear expectations. When productivity is measured based on output rather than hours, it becomes crucial for businesses to clearly define what they expect from their teams. This approach helps employers get better at explaining and measuring the results they want from their employees.

Are employers obligated to approve all flexible working requests?

It's important to note that The Flexible Working Bill does not impose a requirement for every business owner to automatically approve all requests for flexible work arrangements. Certain companies may also have limitations that make implementing flexible policies more challenging or infeasible.

Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder of Flexa Careers comments:

“Not every employer will be able or willing to grant flexible working requests. The new legislation does not mandate employers to do so. However, it is crucial for employers to maintain transparency regarding the options they do offer, whether flexibility is feasible or not.

Failing to do so could put workers, including those with specific health needs, in vulnerable positions if they join new roles with the expectation that their flexible working requirements will be accommodated, only to be disappointed. Therefore, it is vital for employers to manage expectations and communicate clearly about the available options, ensuring transparency and fairness for all employees.”

The Flexible Working Bill is a true game-changer. By creating effective strategies and policies, companies can tap into the benefits that come with having a workplace environment that genuinely supports the needs of its employees. Flexibility is no longer just a perk; it has become a defining aspect of a company's employer brand that can allow companies to attract, retain and engage top talent like never before.