Flexible working for all: what does HR think?

Question: Are you in favour of the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees?
n = 326. Source: XpertHR Surveys. © Reed Business Information

A majority of HR professionals support flexible working for all employees in principle, according to XpertHR research, but some are concerned about the challenges in practice.

From 30 June 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 extends the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ service. XpertHR Benchmarking research looks at the impact of flexible working for all, drawing on responses from 326 organisations.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all (96%) respondents are aware of the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.

HR is broadly supportive of the changes – according to one services sector respondent they represent a key step “towards a better work/life balance for everybody, and all companies need to buy in with immediate effect in order to be ready and able to comply”.

Two-thirds of HR professionals are either in favour or strongly in favour of flexible working for all, with support strongest among public-sector respondents. One quarter are neutral, while one in 10 remains against or strongly against the changes.

Flexible working concerns

But, while UK HR professionals generally welcome flexible working for all in principle, some have expressed concern as to how it will work in practice.

“The publicity that will surround the changes will unfairly raise expectations of what can be achieved,” said one private-sector respondent. “Not all roles are suitable for flexible working and it may raise resentment when requests are rejected.”

Some smaller employers fear that more flexible working requests could mean an increased administrative burden, and that they could face resourcing issues in picking up any slack when requests are accepted. One HR practitioner from a small and medium-sized business said: “It’s good that employees have the right to ask for flexible working. But it’s hard for small businesses to accommodate the requests, which makes us as employers feel pretty rubbish.”

The XpertHR survey suggests that flexible working in the UK remains a mainly female domain. HR professionals said that, at the median, 18% of women and 6% of men in their workforce currently work flexibly.

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