In light of the Government’s announcement that the work from home order will be lifted from the 19th July, various bodies have called for flexible working to remain on the table for staff. 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have urged employers to consult staff and unions about continuing flexibility in working patterns and location.

This comes in response to the Government’s decision to allow employees to return to the office from the 19th July.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, stated employers should remember that one size does not fit all when formulating their approach to returning to work:

Flexible working isn’t just about working at home. It can mean having predictable or fixed hours, working as a job-share, or working flexitime, term-time only hours or compressed hours.

Ministers must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job. Otherwise there will be a new class divide between those who can work flexibly from home, and those who can’t.

This view of offering flexible options to staff was also echoed by Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD:

People generally want a mix of workplace and home working, and the possibility of more choice in their working routines, meaning hybrid working can provide an effective balance for many workers.

Employers should be trying to understand and support individuals’ preferences over more flexible working arrangements where possible, balanced with meeting the needs of the business.

However, Mr. Cheese also felt that businesses should cater for employees who cannot work from home:

Organisations should also look at increasing flexible working options for those who can’t work from home using different types of flexible hours arrangements.

This will help avoid the creation of a two-tier workforce where home and hybrid workers have considerable flexibility while many other employees have very little.

This comes after recent research from the CIPD found that there is regional disparity linked to which employees are more likely to receive flexible working.

Data released by the body found that workers in South East England have the best flexible working options, followed by the East of England, while workers in the Yorkshire and Humber are least likely to have flexibility in their role.

In addition, there was not the same variety of flexible working options offered – with regions where employees report better flexibility in hours tending to have less flexibility over where they work, such as the North East.

The same was also true the opposite way round – with Londoners being likely to have flexibility over where they work but expected to work set, standard hours.

At present, legally, employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to put in a flexible working request.

However, many are pushing for flexible working options to be more readily available with the Shadow Minister for Education, Tulip Siddiq, introducing her ten minute Flexible Working Bill in Parliament last week.

The proposals would see staff receiving the right to flexible working from day one on the job, except in exceptional circumstances.

Ms. Siddiq stated:

Four in five workers want to work flexibly, but a shockingly high proportion of requests for this are rejected by employers – often with little or no justification.

The current law is outdated and we need new legislation to make flexible working a right for all rather than a perk for the few. My cross-party Flexible Working Bill would also give a huge boost to productivity, women’s employment and the economic recovery.