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New law could change company perceptions on flexible hours

    Next month, new UK laws will extend the right of all eligible employees to request flexible working hours.

    Currently, the right to request flexible working hours (and the request may be rejected by the employer) is limited to carers of children under-18 and those who care for adult dependents.

    From June, new laws will permit any employee with over 26 weeks’ service to make an application to work flexibly for any reason.

    At present, an employer may reject the flexible working request, having reflected on its viability and the legal ramifications of a rejection.

    Following receipt of a flexible working request, an employer must follow a tight 28-day time-frame to consider the request and meet the employee. The employer then has 14 days to make a decision.

    After 30 June, this rigid timeframe will be improved for businesses. Employers will have a period of three months to decide from receipt of the request (including responding to any appeal).

    Now may be a good time for organisations to consider the creation of an agile workforce.

    The current law on flexible working is seen by many employers as a benefit to working parents and carers — and not about a better way to do business.

    It is also negatively associated with working mothers.

    Yet those organisations who view flexibility in a positive light, often renaming it “smart” or “agile” working hours, report higher levels of productivity, improved retention rates and better employee engagement.

    The new generation in the workforce are demanding agility. Employers should consider how best to approach potential competing requests for flexible working that could arise from these new laws.

    As a result, flexible working may quickly stop being viewed as a working mother’s charter.

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