Over the last few weeks, chambers across the network have engaged in several discussions regarding the consultation for the ‘day one right to request flexible working’. The British Chambers of Commerce has held focus groups in order to collate the best practice guidance for businesses as well as to gather the thoughts of businesses across the nation on how the change in policy concerning flexible working may impact the way that they operate.
The plans to make the right to request flexible working a day one right would mean that British workers would get more choice over when and where they work, aiming to accommodate both staff and employer needs.
In addition to being able to request flexible working from day one, the government are considering whether limiting an employee’s application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs. The consultation also looks at cutting down the employer response time to the request from 3 months. If an employer cannot accommodate the request, they would need to consider a few alternative options that they could offer instead.
The consultation looks at a range of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, annualised and staggered hours, working from home and phased retirement.
Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time many employers experienced the benefits that remote working offers for both the individual and the business. For some firms, this new arrangement worked well and therefore the system was maintained even after restrictions eased. Some of our member businesses commented on the way that remote or flexible working improved productivity levels for the business and helped employees with their work-life balance.
“Despite this, it is important to understand that not all firms will be able to implement flexible working arrangements due to the demanding nature of their business. With this in mind, the change in policy regarding the right to request flexible working may put firms under a lot of pressure and may cause businesses in sectors who are less able to offer flexible working arrangements to struggle with recruitment.”
The ability of a business to embrace the widest range of flexible working options will depend upon the size of the organisation, its internal resources, and the nature of the job roles. It is crucial that if the legislation is enforced it retains the employer’s right to refuse a flexible working request that cannot be accommodated by the business.
In a survey that was sent out to businesses across Staffordshire, some employers expressed the need for support with regards to including more flexible working options within their recruitment and retention practices. If you require any business support or advice, get in touch with Staffordshire Chambers of commerce on 01782 202222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.