What to know about the Flexible Working Bill

In June 2021, the new Flexible Working Bill was introduced to parliament which proposes that all workers have a legal right to flexible working from day one of employment. Victoria Templeton of HR Solutions explains what flexible working is and how the Bill could affect the workplace.

Flexible Working Bill

What is the Flexible Working Bill?

The new Flexible Working Bill was introduced to parliament in June 2021 and proposes that all workers have a legal right to ‘flexible working’ from day one of employment, rather than needing to have 26 weeks’ continuous service with an employer, as is currently the case.

The Bill, if passed, would require employers to include in job advertisements what flexibility is available as well as offer flexible working arrangements in employment contracts.

What does flexible working look like?

Flexible working can take many forms and given the last 16 months we are perhaps seeing more variations to it than the traditional part-time hours. It’s probably no surprise that it is likely to continue as we look to find a new way of working on the back of the pandemic.

With businesses changing the way in which they operate to adapt to changing customer needs and COVID-19, as well as improvements to UK infrastructure and improved technology, it means that employees and employers have many more flexible working options available to consider, including:

  • Hybrid working

Hybrid working can take several forms. It could be that the role is fully remote, with either the home or even another location within the UK being the base. Or it could be where the main location for working is remote with occasional attendance in the office, or the primary place of work is the office, but remote working is allowed.

  • Part-time

This is where either the number of hours are reduced or structured differently so they operate over fewer days or across the working day outside the traditional 9-5 core hours.

  • Term time working

Working hours that cover term time only; thus, allowing more working parents to have a greater work life balance.

  • Self-rostering

Allowing the employee to manage their own hours of work based around their personal needs, but also against a work roster that has been devised to ensure business needs are met too.

  • Job share

Recruiting two people to carry out the one role.

  • 4 day working week

There were calls in 2020 for the UK to consider introducing a 4-day working week to create a society of shorter working time, moving away from a traditional 8-hour working day, 5 days a week. Clearly this would be radical for the UK, but there is nothing to stop an organisation carefully considering whether this could benefit it, especially at a time when businesses need to re-build.

What are the benefits of flexible working?

For an employer, flexible working can bring many benefits. Perhaps now, more than ever, flexible working can play a crucial role in helping businesses to rebuild as we learn to live with COVID-19. We know that flexible working can:

  • increase morale and employee engagement
  • aid employee retention, which is crucial at a time where businesses are going to want to hold on to their staff
  • improve productivity
  • improve your ability to recruit the best talent
  • allow your business to adapt and change to respond to changing needs post COVID-19
  • make your organisation more diverse and inclusive by enabling you to access talent pools you would not have previously been able to access – this in turn can lead to the sharing of differing views and experiences amongst your workforce which in turn can lead to greater creativity and productivity

Is flexible working a legal right?

The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 provide a statutory right for employees with at least 26 weeks continuous service with an organisation to request flexible working. So, to some extent, there is a legal right, but it is only a legal right to ask and not to have. Employers can, based on business grounds, decline a request. 

About the author

Victoria Templeton is the HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, an outsourced HR services firm offering employment law, and health and safety support and advice to businesses across the UK.

See also

Working from home: what are the pros and cons for your business?

Could a four-day work week ever be introduced in the UK?

How to support workers without childcare

Find out more

Flexible Working Bill (Parliament)

The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 (Legislation)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 12 July 2021

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.