Are employers ready for changes to flexible working?

Newsletter articles

1 Jan 2013

HR Insight Issue 16

Mary Mercer, IES Principal Consultant

Mary MercerIES has recently started work, in conjunction with the research organisation IFF, on the Fourth Employer Work Life Balance Survey for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We were also involved with the previous Work Life Balance Surveys, but it has been six years since the last survey took place and the flexible working landscape has changed noticeably in that time.

The 'right to request' has been extended to carers and to those with older children, and fathers have access to a larger share of parental leave. The Government announced in November that, from 2015, new parents will be able to share parental leave and the right to request flexible working will be open to all. So in this edition of the survey, as well as identifying trends in take up and employer approach, we will want to discover whether employers are ready for this legislative change and whether there is more of a recognition that flexible working is a business tool and not just a nice benefit for working parents.

One of the main benefits of the widening of the right to request to all staff is that flexibility stops being the preserve of the working mother. Links to caring responsibilities put flexibility firmly into women's domain. People, including employers, then felt flexible workers had made a choice to be less committed to their work and their careers suffered as a consequence. It is not a coincidence that, despite anecdotal evidence that managers value the contribution of their flexible workers, those workers are less likely to get the best grades in performance management in many organisations. For this reason, employers will need to look at the culture that surrounds flexible working in their organisation if they really want staff to work in a flexible way that suits the business needs of the organisation.

To discuss how IES could help your organisationto develop its flexible working strategy or policies, email Mary Mercer.