CIPD research highlights business case for extending flexible working

Only four per cent of employers have had difficulties complying with flexible working legislation since it was brought in 10 years ago, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The study comes as the Government is expected to publish plans tomorrow to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The CIPD’s study, Flexible working: provision and uptake found that 96 per cent of employers offer flexible working to at least some employees, and seven out of ten employers report that flexible working supports employee retention, motivation and engagement. Almost two thirds of employers think flexible working supports their recruitment activities and half believe it has a positive impact on reducing absence and boosting productivity.

Small employers were the least likely to find problems with flexible working legislation and their employees were the most likely to have employees workign flexibly. Some 90 per cent of people working for micro-businesses and 78 per cent of those working for small firms work flexibly, compared to 67 per cent in medium and 29 per cent in large firms.

Ben Willmott, CIPD Head of Public Policy, said: “The CIPD has long been calling for the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, despite claims from some quarters that the legislation is burdensome for businesses. Similar concerns were raised over a decade ago about the plans to introduce the statutory right to request flexible working for parents. Those fears have proved unfounded – regardless of size of organisation.

“Our report finds that just 3 per cent of micro businesses and small businesses, 4 per cent of medium-sized businesses and 5 per cent of large businesses have reported problems complying with the existing right to request flexible working. Micro and small employers are more likely than larger organisations to manage flexible working informally rather than through formal policies and procedures, which appears to more than compensate for any lack of formal HR support.

“The argument for extending the right to request to all employees is based on a broad business case… the government should hold its nerve and go ahead with the extension to all employees. The result will be good news for business, employers and the wider economy.”

The study is based on a survey of more than a 1,000 employers and a survey of more than 2,000 employees. It also shows that the form of flexible working employers use is quite limited. Part-time working [32 per cent] is most common, followed by flexi-time [25 per cent] and homeworking [20 per cent]. Other forms are little used, for instance, only five per cent of workers surveyd are on compressed hours, just two per cent work term time only and one per cent job share.

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