Pandemic leads to increased desire for flexible working, survey finds

3 mins

Posted on 29 Jun 2020

A recent survey of 1,603 parents and carers suggests a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increased desire to work flexibly.

Key findings of the survey were:

  • 90% wanted their employers to retain the flexible working measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Almost half (48%) said they wanted to change to more a more flexible working style after the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic ease and workplaces re-open
  • 84% of those surveyed are currently working flexibly, whereas only 65% had been offered flexible working previously
  • The most common flexible working arrangements were working from home (63%) and flexing hours (52%)
  • A fifth of those who were not already working flexibly before the pandemic said they intend to submit a work from home request in the future and 11% said they were planning to put in a request to flex their hours so they have more choice and autonomy around dropping their children off at school and picking them up
  • One person in every 10 surveyed said they would put in a formal request to change their working pattern
  • 13% said they did not think they would have the option to work flexibly, even though they would like to

The survey also suggested some employers are already on board with the potential shift in working styles. 28% of the individuals surveyed reported that their employer was putting plans in place in anticipation of an increased demand for flexible working and 10% said their employer was looking to support staff flexing their hours across the working week.

The survey was conducted by charity Working Families, who said the results of the survey showed the statutory right to request flexible working needs to be strengthened, and a Government overhaul of the law was needed sooner rather than later. Other recommendations it made include:

  • A review of the current flexible working legislation, to include a review of the grounds on which the employer can refuse a request and of the amount of time it has to consider a request (currently three months), as well as making the right to request a “day one” right
  • Employers should be obliged to advertise jobs with flexible options as the norm wherever possible and should consider re-designing roles to afford more flexibility

Under the current law, employees can only make one flexible working request per 12 months, and only after 6 months of service with a company. The request itself must take a prescribed form, and the employee is required to consider the effects of the change on their workload and their colleagues. The employer must then consider the request reasonably and fairly, and within a fixed time period. The employer can only refuse a request on a set list of grounds (such as inability to reorganise work among existing staff, or the burden of additional costs).

The findings of this survey and other surveys conducted since lockdown began indicate that flexible working may become more important than ever in terms of acquiring and retaining talented employees. If acted on, these recommendations could result in employers having to actively consider re-designing roles to allow for more flexibility. The right to request flexible working could also become a “day one” right. The government had already announced its intention, subject to consultation, to include provisions in a new Employment Bill making flexible working the default but has not yet started that consultation.   

You can read the full survey here 

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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