July 19, 2019
Flexible working could become the default for all jobs in the UK, under proposed legislation being considered by the UK government. The most important consequence will be that employees will no longer be expected to use their right request flexible working for an employer to consider, as is currently the case.
Under the Flexible Working Bill, introduced by Conservative MP Helen Whately, employers would have to make flexible working a characteristic of all job roles flexible in some way or other, unless there was a sound business case for why the role could not be carried out in a flexible way.
Introducing her bill to Parliament, Whately said the traditional 40-hour, five-day working week “made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums”, but it did not accurately reflect the reality of how people want to live and work today. She argued flexible working would help close the gender pay gap, assist parents to share childcare responsibilities and help businesses retain staff who might seek better working arrangements elsewhere.
“At the moment, too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part-time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility,” Whately said, adding that the knock-on effect was it “entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers”.
“As a result, men don’t get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home.”
An evolving workplace
The proposal were broadly welcomed by firms. Matt Weston, Managing Director at Robert Half UK said: “The proposed flexible working bill is a sure sign that the modern workplace is evolving. With technology shaping the office of tomorrow, employees no longer need to be at their desks from nine to five to do their jobs. For employers, introducing a flexible working initiative can provide a host of benefits. It can widen the hiring pool to candidates that may live outside of a realistic commuting distance and in some cases, prove to be the deciding factor in getting their preferred candidate over the line. We are seeing more professionals today prioritise their work-life balance and seek out businesses which offer flexibility to achieve this.
“Furthermore, employers that have introduced flexible working will find that it can boost productivity, cut down on commuting time and reduce costs associated with expanding office space. For businesses and employees, flexible working holds the key to the future of smart working.”