Flexible working comes into effect this week

flexible

Despite new flexible working conditions coming into effect on 30th June, a number of recruiters remain unaware of what the new legislation actually means and how it may affect the temp workers they hire.

To date, the right to request flexible working patterns had traditionally been reserved for parents and carers, which is perhaps the main reason why so many recruiters who worked outside this space have been slow to get to grips with how the new rules may impact them. Indeed, this is backed up by the results of a survey by Jobsite published earlier this month.

The survey revealed that of the 500 recruiters/employers and 1,000 workers questioned 53% were unaware of the incoming flexible working legislation. When broken down, these figures showed that 77% of recruiters/employees stated they were in the dark over the changes, while 1 in 4 (25%) of recruiters/employers stated they hadn't even considered the impact the legislation will have on their business.

So if you fall into that 1 in 4 category, here's what the changes actually mean.

Essentially, from 30th June, the right to ask for flexible working has been extended to all UK employees who have been working with the same company or through an agency for a minimum of 26 weeks. This, according to the study above, is the preferred working pattern for 66% of workers (a jump from 46% in a similar survey conducted by the CIPD in 2012).

The way the system works in its current format is that any employee who meets the criteria needs to formally make an application to their employer for flexible working in writing. This then becomes legally binding and holds the employer into account if agreed time limits for meetings and appeals are exceeded. If this happens, and an employer's response is deemed too late, an employment tribunal may issue them with a fine. As one employment lawyer put it, “Employers don't usually have a problem with the requests but they resent the prescriptive jumping through hoops exercise that goes with it.”

It is this 'jumping through hoops' process that the new legislation seeks to address and simplify. Indeed, under the new system, employers and recruitment business owners will be tied to a fixed timeframe of three months to respond to any requested for flexible working from an employee. As an employer, this means that the exercise of managing such requests becomes less of a headache for you whilst for the staff you hire, it ensures they get an answer sooner rather than later and of course – avoids the employer-employee relationship from turning sour.

Employees look for flexible working patterns for a number of reasons, the most common of which are to do with parental and care responsibility (46%) or to free up time to focus on a hobby or study to improve their work-life balance (27%). In fact the demand for flexible working is so high that as many as 1 in 4 (23%) employees state they would look for a new job if their current employer didn't provide a flexible option, according to a recent study.

So if agencies are now obliged to consider all requests for part-time hours, job-sharing or home-working, for example, what impact could this have on how efficiently your business operates if it is forced to accommodate flexible working patterns?

First of all, it is not mandatory – it is a right to request, not a right to be given. If a submission cannot reasonably be accommodated, it does not have to be granted, but what employers are legally obliged to do is give all requests due thought and attention.

And secondly, just because an employee works flexibly it doesn't necessarily equate to a lessening overall performance levels – quite the opposite in fact. Indeed, 60% of employers taking part in a Timewise survey this month said they would be willing to discuss flexible working options with candidates at interview.

So it would seem that flexible working will become more commonplace over the next few years, which we feel is actually a good thing and should be seen in a positive way. After all, surely it’s the quality of performance that's more important than the route to work it took to get it there?

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