Acas publishes new flexible working guidance

Acas has published new flexible working guidance ahead of 'Freedom Day' on 19 July when most COVID-19 restrictions will end in England.

The body encouraged employers to have open conversations with employees about how they want to work going forward in the guidance

It said employers should consult widely with staff or their representatives about introducing hybrid working and discuss practical considerations such as regular communication, technology, performance management and health and safety.

Acas research found nearly half of employers (49%) said they expect an increase in staff working from home or remotely all week, with slightly more (55%) expecting an increase for at least part of the week.

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Susan Clews, Acas chief executive, said the pandemic had greatly impacted working life and it’s unsurprising how many employers and staff have seen the benefits of flexible working.

She said: “Hybrid working existed before COVID-19 and our survey reveals that more than half of employers in Britain expect this type of flexible working to increase once we come out of the pandemic.

“Our new advice can help employers look at the potential benefits of hybrid working, consider whether it is suitable for their workplace, and fairly manage any staff requests.”

General secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady. said employers must heed Acas’ flexible working advice or risk divisions in the workplace.

She said: “As restrictions ease, employers should consult with staff and their unions about working patterns and hours, including hybrid working and working from home.

“The TUC is worried by the new class divide emerging, with those who can work from home getting more flexible working options, and those who must be in a workplace missing out.”

O’Grady said every worker in every job should be able to work flexibly.

“As Acas guidance makes clear, employers should consider other forms of flexible working alongside hybrid working - things like flexitime, term-time working, job-sharing, compressed hours and predictable shift patterns.

“Flexible working is good for productivity, for morale, and it helps working people balance work with their other responsibilities.”

She also advised ministers to publish their long-promised consultation on day-one flexible working rights for every worker, in every job.