HomeCareerNew Versatile Working Invoice is Neither Versatile, Workable, Or Even New

New Versatile Working Invoice is Neither Versatile, Workable, Or Even New

Proponents of versatile working had been exhilarated in July by information that the Versatile Working Invoice had acquired Royal Assent, paving the best way for it to turn into a part of the regulation of the land. Definitely, the UK authorities was eager to promote the advantages of the invoice, promising that it meant employees throughout the nation would get pleasure from extra freedom and management over the best way they work.

Sadly, the reality is the brand new invoice leaves a lot to be desired and is unlikely to contribute a lot optimistic momentum to the versatile work revolution.

The contents of the invoice

The very first thing to say is that this isn’t technically a brand new regulation in any respect, however an modification to the present Employment Rights Act 1996. And relatively than granting employees a brand new proper to versatile work, the principle function of the Employment Relations (Versatile Working) Act 2023 – to offer it its full title – is to make adjustments to the present statutory proper of staff to request versatile work. The Act is unlikely to return into power till mid-2024, however what precisely are these adjustments and the way will they profit employees?

The primary change is to extend the variety of instances an worker can request switching to a versatile working association. Presently, staff can solely make one request in any 12-month interval. This can improve to 2.

Second, staff can anticipate quicker outcomes, as employers will now solely have two months to think about and reply to a request, as an alternative of three below the present regulation.

Third, staff will not be required to clarify what influence their request can have or want to supply recommendations for tips on how to mitigate any influence when making a versatile work request.

It is usually anticipated that staff will have the ability to make a versatile work request on day one in every of their job, as an alternative of getting to attend 26 weeks earlier than asking. Nonetheless, this isn’t contained within the Act itself, however shall be set out in secondary laws that’s anticipated to return into power concurrently the Act.

However why has the UK authorities made these amendments to this course of? Is there that a lot demand for versatile work?

The versatile work revolution

The time period “versatile work” is broad. It doesn’t simply discuss with working from residence or working remotely, but additionally to having versatile begin and cease instances that go well with an worker’s want. Providing flexibility is meant to scale back stress and provide a greater work-life stability, and employers could think about providing it to draw new expertise or retain present employees.

Most analysis factors to an enormous, untapped demand for extra versatile working preparations. As an illustration, LinkedIn knowledge indicated that the demand for distant worokay (only one type of versatile work, but additionally a standard one) vastly outstrips the provision of distant work roles.

Distant work is especially well-liked because it provides employees the selection to stay wherever they select, with out limiting their profession prospects. Distant employees use it to spend extra time with their household as an alternative of commuting, stay nearer to kin, or travelling to completely different nations whereas remaining employed.

However the advantages of distant work additionally prolong to employers. Companies that undertake distributed workforce fashions have a a lot bigger pool of expertise obtainable to them, together with expert employees residing abroad. Firms can construct worldwide work groups as a primary step to getting into new markets or provide round the clock companies to clients in several time zones.

Our personal analysis on the subject, the 2023 Distant Workforce Report, highlighted a number of benefits provided by distant work. Primarily based on a survey of 1,000 decision-makers around the globe, the report discovered that 69% of employers who’ve adopted distant work skilled elevated employees retention, whereas 57% said it was simpler to rent and retain expertise with a distant workforce. Moreover, 72% of employers with a global distant workforce stated that productiveness had elevated – this challenges the frequent assumption that distant work is much less productive.

Boosting productiveness and producing cost-savings via elevated retention are win-win for companies that embrace distant work. However it can be a aggressive benefit: with increasingly employees in search of versatile work preparations, providing employees this flexibility can assist entice expertise away from rivals.

Given this context, ought to we view the versatile working invoice as a serious step ahead? Not essentially.

A missed alternative

The reality is the legislative adjustments within the Act are usually not sufficient to have an actual influence on employees. The Act is merely tweaking an present course of for requesting versatile work – a course of that’s needlessly bureaucratic and painstakingly gradual (it mustn’t take an employer greater than two weeks to seek the advice of with related stakeholders concerning versatile preparations, not to mention two months).

A key drawback is that the Act nonetheless in the end provides employers the correct to reject an worker’s request. The very fact a employee can now make a number of requests a 12 months is unlikely to sway an employer who’s sceptical about the advantages of versatile work.

Companies may additionally face a bureaucratic headache if a number of staff all make versatile working requests, as every request will must be processed individually. Adopting easy company-wide insurance policies for versatile work may assist organisations keep away from this time-consuming paperwork.

The UK authorities ought to have regarded to European friends who’ve established extra versatile rights for employees. It’s notably troublesome within the Netherlands for employers to reject a versatile work request, whereas employees in Finland have the correct to begin or end their work three hours earlier or later than their core working hours and most staff can select the place and after they work for no less than 50% of their working hours.

So whereas the Versatile Working Invoice is one thing of a missed alternative, all will not be misplaced. The versatile working revolution is marching on; increasingly corporations are recognising this pattern and providing better flexibility choices to their employees in an effort to entice expertise and retain expert employees. It’s these forward-looking corporations which might be going to race forward of the competitors.

By Sam Ross, VP Common Counsel at Distant.



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