By Daniel Hunter

It’s not good news for people expecting the Government to help them balance their work and home lives with more flexible working regulations, says Croner. The Government’s plans to extend the right to request working flexibly to all appear to have gone AWOL.

Much was made in the Queen’s Speech of the intention to increase the flexibility of parental leave. However there was no mention of the other measures outlined in the Government’s 2011 ‘Modern Workplaces’ consultation document, of which this was a part.

“The HR community had been anticipating the implementation of flexible parental leave since 2010 in order to comply with EU legislation," Louise Barnes, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner said.

"What we were also expecting was the government to announce plans to entitle all workers to request to work flexibly, something which seems to have gone by the wayside, striking a blow to the expectations of the UK workforce.”

Recent research of over 1,200 working adults with colleagues by YouGov for Croner reveals that less than half surveyed (47%) feel they work for organisations that offer flexible working opportunities to the entire workforce.

Perhaps more worrying among the survey respondents is the impression that 23% of employers that do not offer flexible working at all despite the fact that a proportion of the workforce is entitled to by law - current legislation permits parents of children aged 16 or under (18 for those with disabled children) and employees with care responsibilities to make flexible working requests.

“The findings of the Croner survey show that many British bosses are not only unaware of their legal obligations, but they are failing to understand the benefits that flexible working can bring from an employee engagement perspective," Louise Barnes said.

"There are many different options available to employers from part-time working to staggered hours, which could not only meet the needs of the workforce, but actually help businesses in the current economic climate.”

When asked which one, if any, would be their first choice for flexible working, 19% in the Croner survey opted for condensed hours and 18% chose working from home. The rest preferred part-time working (12%), time off in lieu (12%) and staggered hours (6%). Interestingly 11% of workers said that they wouldn’t like any flexible working, an answer most prevalent in the 45 to 54 and 55-plus age groups.

“With the workforce becoming more age diverse it is not surprising that employees want different things when it comes to working flexibly," Barnes added.

“Typically we are finding that younger employees want the freedom of working from home at times that suit their lifestyle. The strained pockets of middle-aged employees mean that they are most likely to want to work condensed hours to save money on childcare costs, work around school hours or even squeeze out a little bit more ‘me’ time. And older workers want to reduce their hours to ease into retirement or match the hours of their partner.”

Croner recommends that businesses looking to extend flexible working to the entire workforce should begin by carefully considering what they want to achieve. They should review how work is currently organised and what flexible options are available that could make this change. It is important to consult employees and customers on the planned changes to ensure they understand that there will be a possible change to people’s working patterns.

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