Starting day one: U.K. employees can request flexible work

New legislation aims to boost work-life balance, workforce diversity

Starting day one: U.K. employees can request flexible work

Employees across the United Kingdom will soon have the right to request flexible working arrangements as early as their first day at work.

New legislation removes the 26-week qualifying period that workers need to satisfy before they can request flexible working arrangements.

"Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it's a no-brainer," said Small Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake. "Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the U.K. the best place in the world to work."

Several options

The legislation, which is expected to benefit "millions of employees," will allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.

Their request could cover a combination of working from home and the office, along with job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

For employers, the new rules will require them to consult with their employees to explore other available options before rejecting a flexible working request. It will also mandate them to respond to such requests within two months, down from the previous three.

The U.K. government said the legislation will also remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request will be dealt with by their employer.

Businesses will also benefit from flexible work arrangements as they create a "more diverse working environment and workforce," according to the government.

Welcome news for HR group

The announcement was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), an association for HR management professionals in the UK.

"We're delighted the government is bringing in a day-one right to request flexible working," said CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese in a statement. "We've been calling for this change as it will help create fairer, more inclusive workplaces and improve access to flexible jobs for many people. Older workers, those with caring responsibilities and people with health conditions are among those who will particularly benefit."

The new right will also help normalise conversations about flexibility at the start of employment, according to Cheese, allowing greater work-life balance for employees.

"Just as importantly, it will also enable organisations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce and help boost their productivity and agility," he added.

Flexible working arrangements are further gaining momentum across the world. In Singapore, the government has been strongly advocating for the arrangement, calling it a "win-win for employers and employees alike."

In Australia, 71% of employers have a formal work-from-home policy, but they are urged to be more "creative" in implementing flexible work policies.

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