Steve Williams, Head of Equality at Acas, on the changes to flexible working legislation coming in on 30th June.
In an age of mobile phones, computers, laptops and tablets – is working flexibly the next logical step? A number of mums, dads and others may already be doing so. From 30 June this year anyone who has worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more will have the legal right to ask whether they can work flexibly.
Working flexibly is anything that adapts the traditional 9 – 5. It’s not part time working but a feasible option for anyone wanting to strike a balance between their work and personal activities or responsibilities. It can range from working flexi time to compressed hours; and from job sharing to home working.
A decade ago flexible working was considered a ‘perk’. Today, many British businesses have already woken up to the fact that they can keep talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work, and that a healthy work life balance contributes to business success and growth.
Working flexibly can have a number of benefits for both the business and the individual. It can suit different people in different ways. Mums might choose to work flexibly to help with childcare arrangements, while others might want to work outside of the traditional 9 to 5 so they can further their studies.
Under the new law, the right to request flexible working will be extended to everyone once they have worked for 26 weeks with an employer. Employers must then consider all requests fairly and in a reasonable manner which means they need to decide within three months of receiving a request and their decision is based on business needs.
Our advice is that employers should review their flexible working policy now to make sure it reflects the Acas guidance. Employers should also make sure their managers are trained to know about these changes and how to make the right decision on flexible working that is fair, meets business needs and doesn’t discriminate unlawfully
The Acas code and good practice guide will make it easier for employers to be fair in considering requests to work flexibly, which helps to maintain good working relationships and minimise discrimination. The final version will be published on 30 June. You can find more information on the Acas website www.acas.org.uk/flexible
When managed well, being able to work flexibly has a significant impact on our experiences at work. At Acas our experience of working with thousands of employers shows us that employees are much more likely to go the extra mile for an employer who can accommodate their needs. And in our experience that goes a long way in motivating staff and boosting productivity.
*Steve Williams is Head of Equality at Acas.