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Employment groups welcome flexible working changes

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Employment groups have broadly welcomed new legislation that extends flexible working rights to all employees.

The new laws, which come into effect today, are designed to simplify the request process for both managers and staff. Employers now have to consider applications for all staff that have worked at the company for over 26 weeks, regardless of whether they have children. Previously, the right to request flexible working has only been available to carers and people who look after children.

All requests must be 'reasonably considered' and a decision given within three months. It is expected the new rules will benefit millions of employees.

Monster UK & Ireland MD Andy Sumner urged employers to familiarise themselves with the new requirements so that they can "hit the ground running".

"Consider consulting your employees, and perhaps their representatives, when formulating your new flexible working policy," he said. "This will make accommodating requests easier and reduce the chance of any potential disagreements in the future."

Working Families CEO Sarah Jackson called the change "an important step forward in making employment 'work for all', no matter what their family circumstances".

"Whatever the reason for requesting flexible working, individuals who want to find the right work-life fit for themselves will now find it easier to combine working with their outside interests and commitments,” she said.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, called the legislation a step in the right direction for UK business, but said more can be done.

"Beyond the wellbeing of employees, the ability to operate a truly agile workforce will also have a positive impact on the performance of a business," she said. "But companies must realise the cultural shift that is required to ensure that flexible working becomes a reality."

Although employment groups have welcomed the changes, some employers, particularly SMEs, are privately concerned about managing a wave of requests.

Lauren Pullen-Stanley, senior associate at Norton Rose Fulbright, warned that the changes may be difficult to implement.

"Employers need to be aware of the legal developments and appropriately prepare themselves and their workforce for the changes," she said.

“We are yet to see the final regulations and promised guidance and forms from the Government on shared parental leave and pay. Without these, it is difficult for employers to fully prepare for the changes."

A third of managers unaware

Research by LogMeIn suggests that almost one-third (29%) of managers are unaware of the changes to flexible working that come into effect today.

The poll of 1,000 employees and 500 small business decision-makers also revealed that only 27% of managers believe staff will make extra requests. In reality 56% of employees intend to apply for some form of flexible working.

LogMeIn VP of international marketing Stephen Duignan said the majority of workers are looking to improve their work/life balance by taking advantage of flexible working.