Fewer Than One In Four Have Requested Flexible Working

Survey Reveals Perceived Barriers To Adoption

12.01.2015

Fewer than a quarter of people have requested flexible working arrangements despite having the legal right to do so for over six months, a new survey reveals.

The poll of 2,000 workers by O2 Business found that just over half (54%) of people were aware of the right to request flexible working legislation launched in June last year, but only 23% had taken advantage of it.

Around a third (31%) of those surveyed said a lack of trust was one of the main barriers to widespread adoption of flexible working, whilst a similar proportion (28%) said their business culture didn't encourage working away from the office.

Additionally, one in five cited a lack of technology or tools to facilitate flexible working. Only one in eight (12%) thought that their organisation was likely to embrace the practice in 2015.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the government wants to see flexible working become the “norm” rather than the exception, supported by Tax Free Childcare and shared parental leave.

"Extending the right to request flexible working will enable firms to attract and retain the best talent and reap the benefits of a more motivated workforce," he said.

The findings have come months ahead of the Government’s planned introduction of shared parental leave, which is expected to be introduced in April.

Expert Opinion
This research has put an interesting spotlight on how the right to request flexible working which was extended to all employees with the requisite qualifying service, does not necessarily mean that employees are benefitting from such arrangements.

"There are many perceived potential barriers to the adoption of such flexibility, but it remains vital that employers understand their obligations in terms of dealing with applications and having policies in place on them – so that workers understand what options are available to them and how the business will determine them. This is particularly important now that the right to request flexible working is no longer limited to employees with childcare or other caring responsibilities.

"This is a challenging time for employers who are also having to implement and plan for shared parental leave which is available to some parents and adopters from 5 April 2015.

"This potentially gives new parents the right to work and then go back on shared leave for the first year of the child’s birth. This is a different type of flexible working pattern, and employers may find that parents who have exercised it may seek to make similar, permanent arrangements via an application for flexible working when they return to work.

"Businesses must plan ahead to make sure that they are ready for Shared Parental Leave."
Glenn Hayes, Partner