Latest News | 27 June 2024

Firms urged to talk with staff about new flexible working laws

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HR and law firm Precept is encouraging firms to open up conversations with staff as new laws on flexible working arrangements come into effect.

Changes to employees’ rights to ask for flexible working came into force in April when the Employment Relations Act 2023 became law, with key features include making it a day-one right for employees to put in a statutory flexible working request.

Emma Tice, head of employment law at Precept, believes that having clear policy on flexible working and making sure that it’s fair and consistent, is key.

She said: “Businesses should think carefully about whether flexible working works for their organisation. Don’t be ashamed to say it doesn’t; just be prepared to explain why not.

“It’s important we acknowledge that flexible working is not for everybody and just won’t work across every organisation.

“There are sectors – manufacturing and teaching for example – where homeworking won’t work. So flexible working needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

“Some organisations have it as standard, and from day one. So, at Precept, some members of the team are completely home-based while others work on a hybrid basis, coming into the office for part of the week and working from home the rest. That works for us.

“Other organisations don’t have it as standard but will be accommodating on an informal basis, so staff can ask on the odd occasion to work from home or adjust their working hours and that’s all just done by agreement.

“And others require something more formal, in the form of a statutory flexible working request that will make permanent changes to somebody’s working arrangements.”

According to Emma, flexible working requests have been around for years, but the focus has been back on them since Covid-19 and with an increased appetite from employees and (on occasion) employers for staff to work more flexibly.

Emma believes that being able to offer staff flexible working arrangements has helped Precept to recruit a high calibre of staff over the last five years.

She said: “Being flexible in our approach has helped to attract the right people to Precept.

“Reports have suggested that 90% of employees want to access some sort of flexible working, so there are obvious benefits from a recruitment perspective; you’re more likely to attract a wider talent pool either because more people will want to work for you, or it will allow the ‘net’ for your talent pool to be wider.

“As a working mum, I definitely benefit from being able to work flexibly. It does require a high degree of self-motivation but, for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“There are challenges, too, and the Precept team are always happy to advise on this.”

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