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Changing patterns of employment

Changing patterns of employment

Working nine to five, five days a week is becoming less common, a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic when many employees worked at home on a flexible basis. Wider acceptance of the needs of employees to combine work with family responsibilities has also boosted demand for greater flexibility.
Extending flexible working rights

Now a Bill before parliament proposing changes to the statutory regime governing flexible working requests is expected to pass in 2023. The changes would include:

  • giving employees the right to request flexible working from day one – currently there is a 26-week service requirement;
  • allowing employees to make two requests in any 12-month period rather than one;
  • requiring employers to respond to a request in two months instead of the present three;
  • obliging employers to consult with an employee before rejecting their request;
  • removing the requirement that an employee must explain what effect the change would have on their employer and how that might be addressed.

A major six-month trial of a four-day working week involving 3,000 employees of more than 70 organisations was completed in December 2022. In the scheme, run by 4 Day Week Global, employees received 100% of pay for working 80% of their normal hours. A survey midway through the trial found that 95% of businesses involved said productivity had stayed the same or improved during the shorter week. Around 86% of those surveyed said they would keep the four-day week after the trial ends.

Support for a four-day working week is growing. Advantages often cited include:

  • better work–life balance;
  • social impact – employees would have time to undertake voluntary work;
  • making it easier for employees to manage childcare and other responsibilities.

A move to widespread four-day working raises several practical and legal considerations and for many businesses is simply not feasible. For the moment a legal right to request four-day working is unlikely the short term.

Newsletter Jan/Feb 2023
Newsletter Jan/Feb 2023
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