New flexible working law is so welcome – it's what BBK has been doing for 20 years | Bolt Burdon Kemp New flexible working law is so welcome – it's what BBK has been doing for 20 years | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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New flexible working law is so welcome – it’s what BBK has been doing for 20 years

I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the confirmed changes to flexible working legislation coming in April 2024, making it easier for workers to request working conditions that suit their needs.

The law currently allows employees with 26 weeks employment (with their current employer) to make up to one flexible working request in a 12-month period to adjust or flex their working arrangement. There are some other procedural details that are attached to this but come April 2024 all employees will be able to make flexible working requests from day one of employment.

It’s taken 20 years to get to this point!

In 2003 flexible working legislation was only available to employees with parental responsibilities. The next big change came in 2014 when it was expanded to allow staff with six months  employment irrespective of their parental or caring responsibilities to make a request. Now finally, another decade later, this will become a day one right for all employees.

Workplace advisors ACAS has now updated its code of practice for flexible working and it is waiting for parliamentary approval. This is a formality and the law will come into force in April.

This is such a step forward that will benefit many employees. But at BBK, this is what we have been doing for years.

Back in 2003 BBK recognised its staff and the legal profession as a whole needed something different to the norm.

The Partners wanted their colleagues to be able to arrange their time and their personal life in a way that works best for them. This means that for 95% of our staff we don’t have set start and finish times. Instead, they (except for a few office-based employees) can choose how and where they work, as long as they are meeting their client and office demands.

This means we can adjust our working arrangements in a way that balances work and personal life commitments.

Many of us do enjoy coming in to the office regularly because the space is inviting and we want to talk to and collaborate with our colleagues and join in other firm social or events that might come up. But we understand that intelligent and capable people will work more comfortably when they don’t feel pressured to be present or visible for the sake the of a manager.

Whilst this might sound like management speak, in 2020 the world adjusted (quickly) to a new way of life, and for many people, home working arrived suddenly. For many this was a new way of working and whilst there were difficulties for lots of people, working from home didn’t stop people completing their work.

As we adjusted back to life after Covid, there has been lots of activity and noise with flexibility and hybrid working being an expected and valued benefit. ONS Data has shown 58% of workers prefer to work in a hybrid model, and only around 14% of the UK workforce are currently working from home more than they go into the office.

When you look at these stats, it’s still odd that some employers insist staff return to the office full time or on set days, or chose to leave people at home with little or no contact with their colleagues. April’s law change will give more employees a better chance of finding the routine and work pattern that works best for them.

In 2022 BBK relocated to a new London office in the City of London. Whilst the old office had reopened, those who joined during Covid and others who had been employed for years still needed to meet and get to know each other. We decided we would continue doing what we have done for years – offering our staff a fully flexible way of working – but decided throwing a party for everyone to come and enjoy the new office space was a much better approach and we casually carried on as we had before the pandemic!

I’m really pleased employers will be forced to review the applications of more employees, allowing them to work in a way that works for them. It’s about time! That said, I’m happier working in a firm that already understands we all have a life outside work, and I am measured on my performance – not sitting at a certain desk every day.

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