More evidence about the benefits of flexible working

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Business leaders have called on employers to respond to social and economic changes by offering more flexible working conditions.

In a recently published report by the Employers Group on Workplace Flexibility (EGWF) it is argued that the model of work which is currently prevalent in the UK is archaic and that the development of a more agile workforce would benefit both employers and employees alike.

EGWF, made up of 20 organisations such Lloyds Banking Group, Tesco and Ford emphasises the role that flexible working has played in their success.

Flexible working has traditionally been seen as the offer of part-time work to parents, primarily mothers; an arrangement which is often perceived to be of sole benefit to the employee in question. The report challenges this stance and encourages organisations to view flexible working as a means of achieving their business objectives. The implementation of flexible working provisions goes far beyond the offer of part-time work. Research shows that staff who are offered flexibility in terms of their working times, locations and roles, for example through flexi-time, job shares and multi-skilling are far more motivated than their peers.

Whilst the vast majority of UK organisations offer some form of flexible working practices, arrangements are often agreed on an ad-hoc basis. It has been suggested that if businesses were to adopt a company-wide approach, then the results would be far more commercially viable.

Don’t forget that in April 2014 changes will make the implementation of the practices discussed in the report far easier. From this date, the right to request flexible working will be available to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more and they will have the right to make one application within a 12-month period. Currently, the right is restricted to the parents of children under the age of 17 (or 18 where the child has a disability) and to carers of certain adults.

The statutory procedure in place at the moment will also be repealed and employers will simply be under a duty to "reasonably consider" requests made by eligible employees. As now, employers will not be obliged to agree to the request if this decision is based on reasons relating to the needs of the business. The new process should, it is anticipated, take no longer than three months.