Day-one flexible working rights for employees come into force

In a ground breaking move set to revolutionise the landscape of the workplace, employees across the UK will now have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements from the very first day of their new job. 

Effective from the 6th April, the legislation marks a departure from the previous requirement of having to work for an employer for at least 26 weeks before making such requests.

The announcement, hailed by Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), as a potential game-changer for millions of workers, signals a significant step towards greater work-life balance and inclusivity in employment practices.

“Flexibility around time, scheduling, and place of work can be transformative in opening up opportunities for people to get into and stay in work,” stated Cheese, emphasising the importance of accommodating various life circumstances such as health conditions and caregiving responsibilities.

Critical time for organisations

The move comes at a critical time, as organisations grapple with the implications of an aging population and heightened levels of economically inactive individuals due to health concerns. With the onset of the pandemic accelerating the demand for flexible working arrangements, many companies have responded positively by implementing more accommodating policies.

To assist both employers and employees in navigating these changes, the conciliation service Acas has released a new statutory code of practice on requests for flexible working, accompanied by comprehensive guidance. This initiative aims to foster a smoother transition towards flexible working practices and mitigate potential challenges along the way.

According to Susan Clews, Chief Executive of Acas, the global shift towards flexible working following the pandemic has highlighted its value in promoting better work-life balance and organisational resilience. Clews emphasised the mutual benefits of flexible working, wherein employees experience improved wellbeing while employers gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent.

Growing appetite for flexible working

A recent study conducted by campaign group Timewise revealed a significant appetite for flexible working among employees, with half of the respondents expressing a willingness to explore flexible work patterns from day one in a new job. This newfound entitlement is expected to empower job seekers to prioritise flexibility in their employment considerations.

However, amidst the optimism surrounding these developments, concerns persist regarding the gendered dynamics of flexible working requests. Research by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed revealed a disparity in the likelihood of mothers versus fathers seeking flexible working arrangements after parental leave, reflecting broader challenges in achieving gender equality in the workplace.

Joeli Brearley, Chief Executive of Pregnant Then Screwed, highlighted the disproportionate burden placed on mothers in managing caregiving responsibilities and called for concerted efforts to address systemic barriers to flexible working access.

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