UK government backs right for flexible working

New legislation introduced in the UK offers employees the right to request flexible working from their first day in the job, as policy starts to align with new ways of working

A recent study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) shows how UK managers expect working from home to stay. Despite this, employees are still at the mercy of their employer when it comes to their ability to work flexibly. Some organisations maintain a firm stance that work should be conducted in-person, in the office five days a week with little opportunity for flexible working. In these organisations, flexible working is often reviewed as a special accommodation for certain individuals, not a right that they are entitled to.

Now, the UK government is throwing its support behind flexible workers. New legislation introduced by the government allows employees to request flexible working from their boss twice per year, a change from the previous once a year policy, as well as allowing them to make this request from day one in their jobs.

Prior to this shift employees were required to wait at least 26 days before putting in their request, but in rolling back on this clause the UK government is giving employees new powers to set the standard with their approaches to flexible working.

This legislation has come into force as of 6 April 2024, and will have an impact on employees from Wales, Scotland and England but not Northern Ireland which has devolved powers when it comes to employment legislation.

New protections granted

The Government is recognising that the increasing blur between work and life can put a strain on today’s workforce. The legislation allows anyone with caring responsibilities one week of unpaid leave per year, grants new protections from redundancy for those on maternity leave, and increases the flexibility of those who have statutory rights to paternity leave – demonstrating a small step in the direction of the equitable Scandinavian model for maternity and paternity rights.

In addition to elevating some of tensions that occur between balance work and life. The government is recognising that work is not binary or exclusive to one employer. The legislation has may be a removed exclusivity clauses, allowing the 1.5 million people in low income roles to find work with other employers alongside their current jobs. In a country still struggling with a cost-of-living crisis and rampant inflation, this could be critical to safeguarding the financial security of many workers.

These changes in legislation shift the hybrid working movement from an innovative approach to mainstream practice, as well as working to offer increased security to those in vulnerable positions in their working lives. Whilst this legislation could go further in supporting people, it seems like a move in the right direction.

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