As of today (June 30), workers in the UK have the right to request flexible working under new measures the Government believes will help people balance their job with responsibilities at home.
According to ministers, the new rules will encourage more people into long-term employment and will enable firms to retain staff, as they can train while they work or work from home more.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that modern firms understand that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow. He added that from next year shared parental leave will allow mothers and fathers to be able to choose how they care for their babies in the first few months.
Conciliation service Acas has published a code of practice to help employers understand the extension to the right to flexible working and how to process requests to fit their employees’ specific circumstances.
The new law has been welcomed generally, with a spokeswoman for the TUC saying it is not just parents and carers who can benefit from flexible working but employees of all ages will be able to ask their employer to alter the way they work, regardless of whether they have dependents or caring responsibilities.
However, she warned that some employers will still find it all too easy to block any requests for greater flexibility, as there is nothing to stop employers saying “no”.
However, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, small businesses often work in close-knit teams and are flexible by nature. Many small businesses therefore already offer flexible working and recognise the benefits of doing so, such as boosting productivity and staff morale, without the need for a right to request.
According to a recent FSB survey, four in five small firms currently offer flexible working or would consider offering it if asked.
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