Right to request flexible work in U.K. popular with employees

‘Light touch’ legislation has benefitted business, staff: CIPD
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 05/08/2012

The British government is poised to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees and only four per cent of employers have had difficulties complying with the legislation since it was introduced nearly 10 years ago, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

With 96 per cent of employers providing flexible work arrangements to at least some employees, seven out of 10 employers report flexible work supports employee retention, motivation and engagement. Almost two-thirds of employers believe flexible work supports their recruitment activities and one-half believe it has a positive impact on reducing absence as well as on boosting productivity, found the survey of more than 1,000 employers and 2,000 employees.

Small employers are the least likely to report difficulties with the legislation and three-quarters of all employees make use of flexible work of some type. People working for micro and small firms are more likely to be working flexibly in some way (90 per cent and 78 per cent respectively) than those working for medium (67 per cent) or large-sized employers (29 per cent).

However, the type of flexibility commonly used is quite limited, found Flexible Working: Provision and Uptake. While the use of part-time work (32 per cent), flex-time (25 per cent), home working (20 per cent) and mobile working (14 per cent) is comparatively common, other types of flexible work are hardly used. Just five per cent of workers use compressed hours, two per cent use term-time working (
providing an extra seven to nine weeks of unpaid leave in addition to four or six weeks of annual holidays) and one per cent job-share.

Flexible work among non-managerial employees is largely limited to part-time work (39 per cent) and flex-time (28 per cent), with just 14 per cent working from home and 10 per cent mobile working. About one-third of employees working for medium and large organizations have no access to flexible work.

But six in 10 employees with no managerial responsibility who don't work flexibly would like to do so, found the survey.

"The CIPD has long been calling for the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, despite claims from some quarters that the legislation is burdensome for businesses. Similar concerns were raised over a decade ago about the plans to introduce the statutory right to request flexible working for parents. Those fears have proved unfounded,” said Ben Willmott, CIPD head of public policy.

"Just three per cent of micro businesses and small businesses, four per cent of medium-sized businesses and five per cent of large businesses have reported problems complying with the existing right to request flexible working.”

From the employee perspective, flexible work is linked to higher levels of employee engagement and well-being, he said. Employees satisfied with their work-life balance are more likely to be engaged and less likely to say they are under excessive pressure.

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