Younger workers are interested in flexible working arrangements.
The primary aim of this bill is to make the labour market more strong and flexible. Pixabay

Workers in Britain are getting a new lease on life as the UK government has proposed a Flexible Working Bill in a bid to make the country the best place in the world for working and growing a business. As of July 20, the Bill is under Royal Assent.

This comes at a time when industries like the hospitality industry are hiring older staff to address workers shortage.

Flexibility to make the labour market strong

The primary aim of this bill is to make the labour market more strong and flexible so that businesses can flourish and for this workers need to get the liberty to work from where they want and when they want. This bill confirms the government's support for the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act.

Under the Flexible Working Bill, workers can request for flexible working when they start a job and employers are bound to consider it. The employees have to provide a reason in case of rejecting such requests.

This comes at a time when the government issued a record uplift in the National Minimum Wage uplift. Recently, the government also announced employment protections for unpaid carers and parents.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act fulfils the 2019 government commitment to consider flexible work options for workers. As per the Act, employees can make two requests for flexible working every year and employers have to consider it. The requests can be made within two months of one another which lowers the previous 3 month time period gap.

Both the place of work and the time duration of work fall under the purview of the Flexible Working Bill. So working hours and patterns like part-time, flexi-time, term-time, compressed hours and adjusting start and finish hours are part of the Bill. It also includes options like working from home or a satellite office instead of the main office to cut down the commute time.

Bill to help both businesses and workers

The government thinks this will benefit both the workers and businesses as research shows that flexible working makes the staff more productive and stress-free while companies attract more diverse and talented people. It reduces staff turnover and enhances competitiveness.

A CIPD study done last year upholds this strategy as 82 per cent of employers from the 450 businesses surveyed revealed that flexible working helped in retaining staff, making it critical for success. Around 75 per cent of businesses surveyed said that flexible working provided a competitive advantage.

Moreover, the study also showed how workers are changing jobs because of flexible working options. With six per cent (2 million) changing jobs and 12 per cent (4 million) leaving their profession because of flexible options, it shows a critical shift in the way we people worked before and after the pandemic.

Key measures underlined in the Flexible Working Bill

People will get the following benefits once the Flexible Working Bill comes into force:

  • Under the new bill, employees get to make two requests for flexible working in 12 months. Earlier this could be done once a year.
  • The new bill will require employers to consult and discuss with employees before rejecting the requests.
  • The wait times between the requests have been reduced to two months from the previous three months, giving workers the power to request again in two months if their previous request was rejected.
  • In case the employer denies a request they must explain how it is affecting them and how to deal with that.

These requests can be put forward from the first day of work, making workers entitled to benefits highlighted in the regulations from day one. This will help 2.2 million workers.

The government also seeks to understand the impact of flexible working on the market and for that, they have launched a call for evidence on non-statutory flexible working. This will help in understanding how informal flexible working affects businesses and workers.

Enhancing workforce diversity and productivity

Speaking about the Flexible Working Bill, the UK Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake said that the government is backing this bill because a happy workforce will increase the productivity of businesses across the country.

It will enhance workforce diversity and people will get the time to fulfil their other commitments like caring, studying or dropping off their children at school, said Hollinrake.

Acas is scheduled to update its Code of Practice due to the Flexible Working Bill. The Acas' Code of Practice was launched on July 12 with the aim to help businesses and workers regarding the best practices of flexible working.

Speaking about the Flexible Working Bill, Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said that the bill upholds the global shift in attitude regarding flexible working.

According to Clews, the Acas Code of Practice helps generate a positive approach towards flexible working and we are eager to get views on the Bill so that it's clear for everyone.

Flexible Working Bill to address challenges faced by companies

The Chief Executive of CIPD, Peter Cheese who also chairs the government's Flexible Working Taskforce said that the 'Happy To Talk Flexible Working' tagline in job advertisements will help create fair, transparent and diverse workplaces.

This transparency in hiring will make workers comfortable to ask for flexibility and help in normalising discussions between the employer and employees, added Cheese.

Peter Cheese further highlighted how the Flexible Working Bill can address the dual challenges of staff shortage and retention faced by companies. Employers should ensure that flexible working options are given to all irrespective of the job and the sector. They can go for a range of approaches like hour or pattern of work, location of working, hybrid working, etc, said Cheese.