Flexible Working Bill in Parliament: What this means

What could the Flexible Working Bill mean for how you advertise jobs? In this blog David Jackson explains all

The Flexible Working Bill, currently making its way through the House of Commons, has the potential to become a revolutionary piece of legislation. The default position when recruiting for new roles has been to assume that they need to be done on a full-time, fixed hours basis, with perhaps the odd exception being allowed as ‘suitable for flexible working’. What would happen if this were to be completely reversed? What if the default position was that all jobs are advertised as suitable for flexible working unless explicitly excluded for some substantive and compelling reason? 

Ask the supporters of the Flexible Working Bill and they will tell you what they think would happen. They see a future in which people with caring responsibilities, travel difficulties or health issues have access to the vast majority of jobs , rather than being limited to lower paid ‘part time’ or ‘term time’ positions. 

The motivation to legislate in this area arises from a frustration that the current system just isn’t working. Despite evidence to the contrary, employers seem to remain of the view that the most productive and successful model of hiring people is to insist on ‘non-flexible’ working arrangements. The reality though, is that where employers have already taken the plunge and developed reputations for flexible working, they have reported improvements in both recruitment and retention. There is a question about why that evidence doesn’t seem to have had the traction it needed to change our attitudes, but that may now become a moot point.

New legislation on business practice is always a difficult thing to do - particularly perhaps for a Conservative government - but this Bill has been able to emerge as a consequence of broader themes that have been of concern for some time. One of them is equal pay and progression for women, but the very modest success of Shared Parental Leave has also led people to the view that re-balancing caring responsibilities requires a more holistic approach. We also know that UK productivity levels have been a recurrent theme for Parliamentarians and others, and this Bill is clearly focusing on economic output as much as social justice. 

Other than the broad principle of ‘flexible as standard, non-flexible with good reason’ we don’t have very much detail yet. The next stage will be a consultation, the purpose of which will be to gain insight into the opportunities and obstacles that business and others see in this new approach. This consultation will no doubt be informed by yet more data about how well flexible working has been implemented in some organisations and the benefits now being enjoyed.

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to think through which of your own roles couldn’t possibly be done flexibly and why. Where would you be looking to use a justification for a non-flexible role and how comfortable would you be about having to make explicit on your advert that you would not consider flexible working? Taking the time to do that thinking now will not only enable you to contribute more fully to the forthcoming consultation, but also to start putting your house in order ahead of the Flexible Working Act. 

Author: David Jackson is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Twin Kingdom Consulting

Explore related resources

These areas of the People Skills Hub will help you to address some of the issues covered in this blog:

  • Flexible working: find out what you need to know about handling requests for flexible working
  • Family leave: learn about how to manage employees going on maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave
  • Team building: guidance on how to build and develop your team