Remote working regulation: Is your business fit for flexible working?

Paul Lawton, Head of Small Business at O2 explains that from 2015, there are also plans to change maternity, paternity and adoption legislation too, allowing partners to take time off simultaneously.

Besides making changes to who has the right to request remote working, the Government is also introducing a statutory code of practice on how to deal with flexible working requests.

All UK employers will be affected by these proposals, replacing the current ‘right to request’ process with an obligation to respond to any applications to work flexibly within three months. In addition to this, if an employer is unable to grant a request, they must provide a reasonable and legitimate reason in writing.

To make sure they’re meeting these standards, employers need clear internal processes for dealing with employees who would like to work remotely. If they do choose to reject an application, they need to make sure it’s for a real and justifiable reason that will stand up in an Employment Tribunal.

Whilst there’s no denying that this extension may result in more applications and feel like a bit of a burden, it is important for businesses to consider each remote working request seriously. This is not only because there is now a statuary code of practice that needs to be adhered to, but because of the benefits that flow from flexible working more generally.

Flexible working isn’t a new concept. A couple of years ago, research conducted by IBM found 67 per cent of employees who had the option of working flexibly felt they had an improved work/life balance. Businesses offering remote working also benefitted from a 20% jump in workplace productivity and a 20 per cent decrease in costs.

These results reflect our own experience at O2. Shortly before the London Olympics we conducted the UKs largest flexible working pilot, shutting our head office and asking the entire workforce based there (around 2,500 people) to work somewhere else for the day. O2 employees saved 2, 000 hours of travel time, with the majority spending this extra time with their loved ones or getting their full 8 hours sleep.

The pilot was a really rewarding experience for us, as it showed that flexible working can not only improve staff morale but also make a genuine impact on our bottom line by improving workplace productivity. Over a third of staff said that they were more productive than usual, while 88% said their productivity was just as good.

But where to start? There are a number of ways that employers can make their businesses ready for flexible working. What we’ve found is that a great place to begin is making sure employees are as connected as possible, whether it’s through a secure broadband connection or a fast 4G mobile service. The benefits of mobile working mean that employees can respond to emails at the school gate, conference call in the park and make free calls in WiFi zones using apps such as TuGo.

Businesses need to have the right tools for their employees so they can fit their work around their personal life. Laptops equipped with Microsoft Office 365 for example, the cloud based office system, mean staff can work anywhere, and apps like Just Call Me mean they can dial into a conference call on the go. These tools are relatively inexpensive and can be deployed easily across a workforce with a high return.
So make sure that you’re ready for the new legislation and get your company flexible working ready in time for June 30th.
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