Food and DrinkHospitalityNews

Millions To Benefit From New Flexible Working Measures

Millions of British workers will have more flexibility over where and when they work as the Flexible Working Bill achieves Royal Assent.

Employees across the UK will be given even more flexibility over where and when they work, as the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill receives Royal Assent.

Delivering on a 2019 Manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working, the Act will require employers to consider and discuss any requests made by their employee – who will have the right to two requests a year – within two months of a request, down from three.

Flexible working is a broad term and can relate to working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times. It can also include flexibility over where someone works, whether that be from home or a satellite office shortening their commute.

As well as clear benefits to workers, the measures are also good for British business. Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover – boosting their business’s productivity and competitiveness.

CIPD research shows that 6 percent of employees changed jobs last year specifically due to a lack of flexible options and 12 percent left their profession altogether due to a lack of flexibility within the sector. This represents almost 2 and 4 million workers respectively.

Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: A happier workforce means increased productivity, and that’s why we’re backing measures to give people across the UK even more flexibility over where and when they work.

Not only does flexible working help individuals fit work alongside other commitments – whether it’s the school drop off, studying or caring for vulnerable friends and family – it’s good business sense too, helping firms to attract more talent, increase retention and improve workforce diversity.

I want to thank Yasmin Qureshi MP, and all the campaigners who have helped make this Bill a reality and improved the lives of workers across the UK.

Workers will benefit from the following new protections once in force:
• New requirements for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request.
• Permission to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one request).
• Reduced waiting times for decisions to be made(within which an employer administers the statutory request) from three months to two months.
• The removal of existing requirements that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.

Alongside the measures in the Bill, millions of workers will be given the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. This will bring an estimated 2.2 million more employees in scope of the entitlement following a change in regulations.

The Government is also today launching a call for evidence on non-statutory flexible working to improve on knowledge of the extent of flexibility in the labour market. The aim is to increase understanding of the role of informal flexible working in meeting the needs of both employers and employees.

In response to this legislation, Acas will be updating its statutory Code of Practice following a consultation, which was launched on 12 July. The aim of the Code is to provide employers, employees and representatives with a clear explanation of the law on the statutory right to request flexible working, alongside good practice advice on handling requests in a reasonable manner.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:
There’s been a global shift and changed attitudes towards flexible working. It has allowed more people to better balance their working lives and employers have also benefitted from being an attractive place to work for staff that value flexibility.

Our new draft Code encourages employers to take a positive approach to flexible working and addresses all the new changes in the Act. We are keen to get views to ensure that it is clear and relevant for the modern workplace.

With new legislation coming into effect, charity Working Families—in partnership with the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce and CIPD—is re-launching its ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ strapline and logo to aid employers in realising the benefits of flexible working from the point of recruitment.

Working Families and the Taskforce have also developed new guidance for employers, outlining the business case for flexible working and offering step-by-step instructions for designing and advertising flexible roles that work for businesses. The initiative will give employers a head start in thinking about how all their roles can be done flexibly.

Jon Wilson, SVP at Deputy, a global platform for managing hospitality workers, said:
“These changes are a win-win for employees and employers. Good employers offer flexibility, provide fair and predictable schedules and treat their staff well. They understand that this is vital to recruiting and retaining the best talent to ensure future success in any business.

“The latest Deputy data from the 2023 State of Shiftwork Survey highlights just how important flexibility is, with 45% saying the ability to fit in other commitments is a top priority for them and 43% saying schedule flexibility matters. In fact, 33% said they would change jobs for more flexible working hours.

“Another important aspect of this legislation is the removal of exclusivity clause restrictions. Empowering 1.5 million low-paid workers to seek out additional employment opportunities in pursuit of a more predictable, financially secure work life, is a cause that Deputy champions. The opportunity to earn enough income to enjoy economic stability is fundamental to creating a fair and equitable world of work for this underserved community. It is also the biggest win for business owners in sectors such as hospitality who are struggling to hire staff in the tight UK labour market.”