Unum UK is offering staff the chance to request flexible working from their first day of employment.
The employee benefits provider launched the policy to support employees’ work–life balance ahead of the introduction of the Flexible Working Act, which is expected to take effect in spring 2024.
According to the company, which employs 850-plus workers in UK offices in Dorking and Basingstoke, the decision to enhance its people policies also reflects its “commitment to normalise flexible working patterns”. Nearly one in five (19%) of its workforce already work flexibly, either through part-time hours or a full-time compressed arrangement.
Employees in the UK currently have to wait six months before making a flexible working request, but Unum believes introducing the policy now will particularly help “sandwich generation” staff who are juggling caring responsibilities for both children and elderly parents or relatives.
The move follows research carried out by the business last year, which found nearly a quarter (24%) of sandwich generation employees had had to take time off work because of caring responsibilities.
Unum’s data further showed that just 38% of employers offered flexible working hours, while more than two in five (43%) of employees wanted better flexible options.
The provision includes allowing people to make two flexible working requests in a 12-month period, instead of only one, as well as a commitment to responding to these requests within two months, rather than the current three-month policy. The firm will also no longer require staff to detail how their request might work.
Jane Hulme, HR director at Unum UK, said: “The workplace and the needs of employees are changing rapidly and we are keen to lead the way and reflect the legislative changes before it becomes mandatory. As a responsible employer of choice, Unum recognises that embracing a flexible approach and being amenable will help attract and retain staff. This is crucial given the continued rise in the cost of childcare, which could risk pricing some parents out of employment.”