Why I am supporting #FlexFrom1st

25th February 2021

Flexible working. A day-one right to request. For everyone.

The CIPD are leading a campaign to get legislation changed so that the right to request flexible working becomes a day one right (CIPD, 2021). For those readers who may be unaware, the ‘Right to Request Flexible Working’ is presently only available to employees with at least 26 weeks service (Legislation.gov.uk, 2014).

Our Business Programme has been advising our clients to allow flexible working requests from day one of employment for years. We’ve always been a few steps (years) ahead when it comes to recommendations like this. Way back before the Right to Request became ‘reason neutral’ we were explaining to our clients the business benefits and almost all of them adopted a reason neutral policy.

One client who springs to mind adopted a reason neutral policy back in 2012, a few years before the legislative change. Within weeks of adopting their new policy, a manager who was not a parent or carer asked to reduce his hours by one day a week so that he could pursue his lifelong ambition to complete his degree.

With so many part timers working for them I suggested they advertise the one-day job share, internally. This resulted in a woman already working part time being appointed into the management role.

Even though it was just one day week it was a significant move in the right direction for gender equality and increased her contracted hours. It proved that flexible working is for everyone, not just mums. It also proved that managers could work part time.

There were significant benefits to the business. They retained two employees who would have potentially gone elsewhere for progression opportunities. It demonstrated to the whole workforce that their commitment to their employees was more than just words. Interest in their future vacancies sharply increased from their improved employer brand, which was communicated mainly by their employees.

Fast forward to 2021 and we are talking about making this a day one right and our clients nearly always adopt this policy and here’s why:

It can save the business money and you time

If you have just advertised and appointed to a full-time position, wouldn’t it better to know from day one that the new team member would prefer not to work full time? That way you can appoint their job share partner from the same candidate pool rather than go through the costly and time-consuming process once again in six months’ time. According to several sources the average cost per hire currently sits at around £3,000 and that’s without an agency’s involvement.

It can broaden the recruitment talent pool

Businesses switched on a long time ago that employing people with a range of backgrounds, ideas and experiences is good for business but often struggle to attract such a diverse range of people. Whether you employ 10 or 150 people, it’s unrealistic to expect to find a diverse range of people who can all work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. Advertising this day one right will start to attract a broader range of people. Younger people expect flexibility, parents and carers (very often women) need flexibility; older people want to remain in work but not necessarily full time.

It’s simply easier to implement

Why wait for your new starter to be with you for six months before discussing flexible working? Start as you mean to go on. The chances are they will perform better because they will be more ‘tuned in’ during their working hours as they will be achieving better work life balance.

It creates a culture of mutual respect and open communication

People can’t always leave their home life at the door (and I don’t just mean that literally because everyone is currently working from home in lockdown). It’s much healthier and productive if we can be ourselves in work and discuss what adjustments we might need to be truly present in work.

Promoting flexible working has always been at the top of Chwarae Teg’s agenda as it can be the solution to so many issues within society and the economy.

Research in the UK, conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), found that due to the pandemic – 90% of working mothers have had to increase their childcare responsibilities, 30% were now unable to work 9am-5pm and 16% have had to reduce their working hours to look after their children (Chwarae Teg, 2020). Situations like this will only serve to widen the Gender Pay Gap.

In 2018 a report by Timewise and Deloitte identified five key steps employers could take to address the gender pay gap and doing away with outdated working practices:

  1. Leaders must provoke culture change – challenge the status quo
  2. Flexible working must be gender neutral and emphasise the value of male and female role models
  3. Design flexibility into the job – ask “why not”, rather than “why”
  4. Influence the attitudes and actions of managers – provide the permission and tools to support a flexible workforce
  5. Collect the data – measure the success of flexible working

The Agile Nation2 Business Programme provides specialist support to whole leadership teams to design and implement a flexible working policy that best reflects the needs of the business and its people. Support from the programme is fully funded for businesses in Wales with less than 250 employees.

Written by Gemma Littlejohns, Senior HR Business Partner

Specialising in Gender Equality | Committed to continuous improvement