For 8 years I have personally benefited from hybrid working, infact I set the business up intentionally to allow me this freedom, however during my 18-year tenor in recruitment, it has only been the net result of covid which has pushed many employers in the financial services industry to support working from home, and even then, some banks still refuse to adopt this style.
Flexible working, for those who are unsure, does encompass a lot of options. It is: “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having a flexible start and finish times, or working from home”. This means an employer works with the employee, to find what works best for both.
I worked in the city for 20 years and loved my time and experiences, however as I got older my interests changed, and once the kids arrived, I was grateful to have already set up a business that enabled me to work from home. This isn’t a luxury many in the industry have.
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) is a bill currently being passed to help those that benefit greatly by working from home – at least a few days a week.
The objectives of the bill include:
- Provide employees with better access to contractual flexible working
- Help employees to better reconcile their work and non-work lives
- Help employers to secure the business benefits of flexible working
The bill is meant to support both employee and employer, and I tend to agree. Flexible working enables more opportunities to find candidates across diverse backgrounds. Parents, carers, those with disabilities, all of whom may be unable to join the office full time but are skilled and experienced and looking for a role that aligns with their remote/flexible working requirements.
The changes will provide better access to a varied range of working arrangements and encourage constructive dialogue about the flexible working opportunities within the company.
A report by CIPD in April 2022 found some interesting statistics that back up the need for this bill/flexible working:
- In 2020 80% of employees reported availability of any flexible working at their workplace with 59% using it.
- In 2022, 37% of employers saw an increase in requests for flexible working over 6 months
- 56% of organisations believe that its important to provide flexible working as an option when advertising jobs.
- 42% of organisations say they will be more likely to grant requests for flexible working, besides working from home, compared before the pandemic (March 2020).
- 9% of employees say they changed careers/profession due to lack of flexible working options within the sector.
- 4% of employees left a job over 12 months specifically due to a lack of flexible working
- 41% of organisations who state homeworking has increased also state home/hybrid working has increased their productivity/efficiency
- 69% of employees report better work/life balance; 48% have improved satisfaction; and 41% reported better flexibility and employee wellbeing
However, we need to be mindful that some employees don’t want to work from home all the time, if at all. Forced flexible working can also cause issues, so this bill ensures it is in the employees hands to request it, rather than the company having to decide on a blanket formal agreement. For example, 44% reported increased stress or mental health problems; while 43% found difficulty in working as expected when they lacked space or privacy to work. Another factor I find interesting from the report, is that 24% of employees who can work from home or in a hybrid fashion are concerned that they will be treated less favourably if they work this way, compared with colleagues always in the workplace.
It is our job as employers to ensure those who need or prefer this format of working, are supported, and provided with the right opportunities, without this fear of favouritism for those who go to the office full time.
The bill has gone to Royal Assent (this means it’s in the final stage and being passed as legislation by the King), already having passed all the reviews in parliament without any amendments.
The bill would amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to make it easier for employees to request flexible working. Upon reading the summary of the bill, these are the elements employers and employees need to know:
- The bill will require employers to consult with an employee before rejecting any request for flexible working. There is currently no requirement that a consultation with the employee is substantive of covers the options available. There is, in fact, no minimum standard of consultation set out.
- Employees will be able to make 2 requests for flexible working within the same 12 months.
- Employers will have to provide an approval or rejection for the request within 2 months (previously 3 months).
- An employee will not be required to explain the effect of their request to the employer.
- Coming soon: Employees can request flexible working from the first day of their employment. Previously, an employee would have to have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service before their right to request a change to their working hours, times or location.
As a recruiter one of the leading questions I am asked by a candidate will be querying the hybrid offering of the roles I am supporting, and more often than not, my response will make or break their decision as to whether the candidate will apply. If you want to get the best candidates, your flexible working opportunities need to deliver, just like salary, ethos, and career progression.