By Daniel Hunter
As reports suggest the Government is poised to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), reveals that only a tiny minority (4%) of employers have had difficulties complying with the current right to request flexible working since it was introduced nearly 10 years ago.
The CIPD is calling on the Government to hold its nerve and go ahead with the extension in this week’s Queen’s speech.
With 96% of employers providing flexible working arrangement to at least some employees, the research finds that seven out of ten employers report that flexible working supports employee retention, motivation and engagement. Almost two thirds of employers believe flexible working supports their recruitment activities and half believe it has a positive impact on reducing absence as well as on boosting productivity.
The study, Flexible working: provision and uptake, finds that small employers are least likely to report difficulties with the right to request legislation, and in all, three quarters of employees make use of flexible working of some type. People working for micro-and small firms are more likely to be working flexibly in some way (90% and 78% respectively) than those working for medium (67%) or large-sized employers (29%).
However the study, based on a survey of more than a 1,000 employers and a survey of more than 2,000 employees, shows the type of flexibility commonly used is quite limited.
While the use of part-time working (32%), flexitime (25%), home working (20%) and mobile working (14%) is comparatively common, other types of flexible working are hardly used. Just 5% of workers use compressed hours, 2% use term-time working, and 1% job share.
Flexible working among non managerial employees is largely limited to part-time working (39%) and flexi-time (28%) with just 14% of such staff working from home and 10% mobile working. About one in three employees working for medium sized and large organisations have no access to flexible working. Six in ten employees with no managerial responsibility who don’t work flexibly would like to do so.
“The CIPD has long been calling for the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees, despite claims from some quarters that the legislation is burdensome for businesses," Ben Willmott, CIPD Head of Public Policy, commented.
"Similar concerns were raised over a decade ago about the plans to introduce the statutory right to request flexible working for parents. Those fears have proved unfounded — regardless of size of organisation.
“Our report finds that just 3% of micro businesses and small businesses, 4% of medium-sized businesses and 5% of large businesses have reported problems complying with the existing right to request flexible working. Micro and small employers are more likely than larger organisations to manage flexible working informally rather than through formal policies and procedures, which appears to more than compensate for any lack of formal HR support.
“The argument for extending the right to request to all employees is based on a broad business case. More than seven out of ten employers report that flexible working supports employee retention, motivation and engagement. Almost two third of employers believe flexible working supports their recruitment activities, while half believe it has a positive impact on reducing absence as well as on boosting productivity.
“From the employee perspective, flexible working is linked to higher levels of employee engagement and wellbeing. Our report finds that employees satisfied with their work-life balance are more likely to be engaged and less likely to say they are under excessive pressure.
“This report shows that a significant proportion of those employees who don’t work flexibly would want to do so — particularly those below management level. It also finds that many flexible working solutions are not widely used, for example job sharing or the use of annualised hours — or are only available to more senior staff.
"Managers are much more likely to be able to work from home or benefit from mobile working than other members of staff and while, this is partly likely to be because of differences in the nature of the work between managers and their employees, in some organisations, it is because of culture and ingrained attitudes.”
“Our report also shows that wild claims about risk that extending the light-touch right to request legislation would lead to large numbers of tribunal claims are unfounded. The right to request flexible working has not contributed to any significant increase in employment tribunal claims.
"For example, since 2006, the period for which we have figures, the most number of tribunal claims generated by the flexible working regulations in any one year has been 344, with the vast majority of such claims in all years either resulting in an Acas conciliated settlement, withdrawn or settled privately between the parties. Put simply, flexible working works for business, and the Government should hold its nerve and go ahead with the extension to all employees. The result will be good news for business, employers and the wider economy.”
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