New government legislation allows employees the right to request flexible working from the time they start a new job. The move is being received well by unions, who advised minsters to do more in relation to making flexible working a norm.
Millions of Brits all over the UK are currently working flexibly, this includes people working from home, compressed hours, job sharing, flexitime and part-time and term-time only working.
The government announced on Monday that it would introduce legislation which will give employees the right to ask for flexible working arrangements as soon as they start a job. Previously, you could only make a request after 26 weeks.
Now, you can do it straight away. A request can be made every year and employers have up to three months to respond.
As well as helping those who want to work from home, the government said around 1.5 million low paid workers such as students, carers and gig economy employees would benefit from this legislation, because it would let those workers take on a second job if they desired.
Tray Durrant, executive director of PA recruiter, Bain and Gray, believes the new move will be a good thing for employees. “It will prompt discussion and iron out the working arrangements from day one, which can only be a good thing for both sides and ensure hybrid working arrangements are clear cut. It is already part of the dialogue for our candidates when looking for new roles,” Durrant says.
Though the move will be important for employees, some people shared that they’d feel uncomfortable asking for flexible working options in a job interview as they fear the response, according to a TUC survey.
However, Durrant thinks it’s important that this is covered during the interview process. “This should set the stage for the future working arrangements,” Durrant adds. “It’s crucial during any interview process that all elements are considered by both parties, and establishing the ground around flexible working arrangements would be anticipated by the employer.”
Equally, there are some who might feel anxious about approaching their current employer about the topic of flexible working. But Durrant says “whether or not someone is intimidated, communication is paramount”.
More than a quarter (26%) of businesses have reported an increase in questions regarding flexible working at interview stage. UK workers increasingly expect flexibility as a given, with some going so far as to say they’d be more likely to continue working for their employer if they were able to work overseas as part of their current job.
So, what’s the best way to make a WFH request?
“Employees need to think through the benefits of presenting their case for home working, which might be easier for some roles than others,” says Durrant. “Highlight clear tasks where the focus is individual and where undertaking these duties makes more makes more sense in an uninterrupted environment.”
Alison Blackler who is a mind coach understands that bringing up the topic of flexible working can be difficult if your manager isn’t keek on the idea. Blackler share’s three tips to when making a working from home request:
Prepare what you want to say, get as much factual information to present, for example, the length of time saved travelling and have the key pointers written down. This helps you get all your points over, keeps you on track and therefore reduces overwhelm and fluster.
Make sure that time has been planned into the managers diary and state what you want to talk about ‘flexible working’. Be brave and clear – being up front helps everyone with expectations. It is also tempting to try to ask casually, which can catch the manager off guard and therefore get an unwanted response. This also helps you prepare yourself for the conversation
Remember, these conversations usually go better than we imagine in our minds. We often dread them and make them into much bigger deals. Rehearsal also helps the mind so that it is not new and it is much easier.
This also goes for employees who feel pressured to work in the office, despite being offered hybrid working options. “If this becomes a problem for the employee, the individual should bring it up with their manager and ask for clear guidelines on the company policy and on their role,” Durrant shares.
“Again, communication is paramount to set parameters and ensure there is clarity around the role and the number of days in the office.”
Employees certainly want hybrid to stay – 15% of businesses are already receiving increased requests to work from anywhere, Totaljobs reported. Meanwhile 15% are getting questions about four-day working weeks.
Around 16% of companies have improved flexible working options in order to retain staff aged over 50, according to Totaljobs. And only 12% of companies citied “managing flexible working patterns” as one of the major challenges facing businesses in Q3 2022, suggesting most are getting used to the idea). Instead, cost of living (55%) and retaining staff (26%) were the principal concerns.