The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill is expected to receive royal assent within the week, moving a step closer to becoming UK law.
Having passed its final stage in the House of Lords on Friday (14 July), the new rules will give people the right to request flexible working arrangements from their first day of employment, which will include changes to their working times, hours, or location.
The legislation will also enable employees to make two requests in a 12-month period, rather than one as is currently the case, and will mean they no longer have to explain the effect of the arrangement on the business.
Meanwhile, new research by the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) Insight Unit has found that three-quarters (76%) of employers currently offer flexible working, but there are “significant disparities” between sectors.
Business-to-business (B2B) employers – which include legal, finance, marketing, media companies – are much more likely to have flexible arrangements in place than manufacturing and business-to-consumer (B2C) ones, such as hospitality and retail. A total of 86% of B2B firms offer flexible working compared to 73% of manufacturing companies and 74% of B2C employers.
Among the percentage that offer flexible options, nearly a quarter (23%) do so as standard, which is highest among companies with fewer than 10 staff (37%) and lowest among those with 10-49 employees (13%).
Nearly a third (32%) of businesses have informal flexible working arrangements in place, which is highest in companies with 10-49 staff members (38%).
There are also many micro businesses that do not offer any type of flexible working compared to their larger counterparts with 250-plus employees, at 19% versus 6% respectively.
Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said: “With three-quarters of businesses saying they offer flexible working, it’s clear that it has become part and parcel of everyday workplace practices. Wherever possible, employers are willing to support their employees to balance work and other commitments so they can continue in their jobs and advance in their careers.
“Employers understand that flexible working makes good business sense; helping them to attract and retain a skilled workforce. With three in four firms struggling to fill job vacancies, it can help tackle skills shortages by enabling people to stay in work when their circumstances change.
“Flexible working also means firms can attract candidates from a broader range of backgrounds and circumstances and achieve the benefits of a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace.
“The BCC welcomes changes to legislation, as set out in the government’s Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, that can help employers and workers have better and earlier conversations around flexible working, balance the needs of the business and individuals, and help more people to contribute their skills to the workforce.
“Good communications, robust guidance and practical resources for employers will be essential as the legislation takes effect to help them understand and implement the changes effectively and understand the broadest range of flexible working options available. We look forward to working with government and businesses to ensure flexible working works for both firms and employees.”