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Following the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work and flexible working arrangements have become commonplace. But can new jobseekers demand to get a flexible schedule? Image Credit: Pexels

London: Post the COVID pandemic, employees across the globe have been prioritising one key perk - flexible working. And now, the UK has a new law that allows jobseekers and current employees to request that from employers from the first day of the job.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act was given the Royal Assent on Thursday, July 20, after the bill passed without amendments last week at the House of Lords.

According to a press release published on the UK government website, flexible working could be anything from "part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times."

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"It can also include flexibility over where someone works, whether that be from home or a satellite office shortening their commute."

What is the change?

While UK employees could submit requests for a change in their work patterns, that was possible only after the employee had completed 26 weeks (6 months) of continuous service. Instead, with the new law, employees can request a flexible arrangement from day one of their service.

Employers are also required to consider two requests, up from just one, from the employee per year as per the new law. The decison for these must be communicated within two months (instead of three months earlier).

Additionally, employers cannot reject these requests without providing ample reason. In a significant update, employees are no longer required to explain what effect, if any, the change in work arrangement would have on the employer.

Nearly 2 million workers in the UK switched jobs specifically due to the lack of flexible working options while 12 per cent of the workforce (4 million) left their industry owing to rigidity in work systems.

Who will it benefit?

Since the requests can be made from the first day, new jobseekers – including new parents and carers, and people with disabilities – would be able to return to work with flexible conditions.

The government expects the law will immediately benefit 2.2 million people eligible to join the workforce.

Employers must plan ahead

The government tagline employers can use in their job ads is ‘Happy To Talk Flexible Working.'

The government press release added that initiatives are in place to encourage employers to think how work can be done with flexible arrangements in place.

Employers are expected to garner benefits from the law given current issues of talent shortage and inability to retain skilled talent.