With its many benefits, we believe flexible working should be the norm - not the exception - for UK workers, and central to the creation of inclusive and productive workplaces. In the context of a global pandemic, flexible working remains as relevant as ever for both employers and policymakers. 

The situation

More action is needed to increase the uptake of flexible working arrangements to create more inclusive, diverse and productive workplaces that suit both the needs of organisations and individuals.

Our research suggests that UK workers are facing inequality due to a stark difference in employers offering flexible working practices, with just under half (46%) of employees saying they do not have flexible working arrangements in their current role.

While the Coronavirus pandemic has driven an increase in working from home, 44% of employees have not worked from home at all during this period. With working from home being just one of several flexible working arrangements employers can offer, 75% of employees agree it is important that people who can’t work from home can work flexibly in other ways.

CIPD viewpoint

The CIPD’s view is that flexible working practices should be the norm- not the exception -for all UK workers and with that in mind, we have launched our #FlexFrom1st campaign, encouraging employers to support flexible working for all and the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. We are also calling for a change to UK law to make flexible working requests a day one right for all employees.

Two fifths of employers believe the right to request flexible working legislation has been effective in increasing the uptake of flexible working in their organisation; making it a day-one right should further bolster its effectiveness by increasing access and uptake more widely.

The CIPD Good Work Index points to a number of barriers to be overcome:

  • Line manager attitudes
  • Lack of senior-level support
  • Concerns about meeting operational and customer requirements
  • The nature of the work people do.

Performance measures that focus on hours rather than outputs are also a factor, as well as inequality of access to flexible working.

The CIPD is supporting the people profession to use its unique position to break these barriers and promote and support a much wider uptake of flexible working practices. We have run over 20 events across our branch networks in the last 16 months, highlighted successful guidance and case studies, and are also involved in initiatives to support flexible working. This includes:

  • co-chairing the UK Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, publishing research and guidance on enabling flexible working, and creating practical tools for line managers to bring about change
  • our Steps Ahead Mentoring programme, supporting jobseekers who find it hard to access the labour market due to the lack of flexible working
  • piloting the CIPD Parent Returner Programme in Yorkshire and Humber, addressing the challenges faced by both employers and returners via bespoke training and support

Actions for Government

  • Make the right to request flexible working a right from day one of employment. Reconsider the business reasons for rejection of requests and the stipulation that employees can only make a request every 12 months. 

  • Support the Flexible Working Taskforce in its practices to increase access to – and uptake of – different forms of flexible working.

  • Work with organisations (such as the CIPD) on myth-busting around flexible working to dispel the notion that it cannot work for certain employees or job roles that traditionally are not considered flexible.

  • Lead by example by ensuring that the civil service becomes an exemplar of flexible working, and by encouraging the wider public sector to create more flexible jobs.

Recommendations for employers

  • Implement internal policies that allow your employees to request flexible working from day one of employment. 

  • Stipulate that jobs can be done flexibly in job adverts, attracting more candidates who are looking for flexible roles.

  • Raise awareness of different forms of flexible working, such as compressed hours and job sharing, and explore how can they be effective in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible.

  • Develop mutual trust between line managers/senior management and employees in alternative working arrangements. Support these arrangements with appropriate people management systems and processes.

CIPD resources and references

Explore our related content

CIPD viewpoint

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Flex From 1st

The CIPD is calling on organisations and government to make the right to request flexible working a day one right

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Policy engagement

Engaging with ministers, other policy makers and our membership to inform our views to influence government

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