SMEs uncertain about flexible working

Nearly half (45%) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are unaware of the upcoming changes to the law on flexible working, according to a study by Citrix/YouGov.

From 30 June, changes to employment law will allow all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment to apply for flexible working.

The YouGov research, conducted on behalf of mobile working specialist Citrix, found that there is a "significant lack of awareness, preparation and support" for the changes among SMEs.

Key findings:

  • 55% of SMEs are aware of the changes
  • 46% have no flexible working policy in place
  • 43% support the legislation
  • 21% think it will have a negative impact on their business
  • just 5% of SMEs without a flexible working policy believe the changes will have a positive effect on their business.

Under the changes:

  • all employees with 26 weeks' continuous employment can apply for flexible working
  • employers have a statutory duty to consider flexible working applications
  • employees have the right to appeal against decisions
  • flexible work becomes a permanent change under the contract once agreed.

Richard Smith, head of employment law at Croner, a HR consultancy firm, said:

"Changes to the law are not bad news for employers - they will receive some flexibility too. The new law replaces the statutory procedure for consideration of flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a 'reasonable' manner.

"It does not give employees the right to working flexibly but provides a right to request it. Employees can request a change to working hours, working time or working location once every 12 months."

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