A new law in the UK allows anyone to apply for a flexible work schedule. Though it sounds like a dream come true, it could backfire.
Do you dream of working in your PJs, taking conference calls from your couch, and avoiding the daily commute? Do you still want the security of working for an established company, but long for the freedom of working from home?
If you live in the UK, this is no longer just a perk; it’s your right.
As reported by the BBC, a new law recently went into effect that gives all UK employees the right to ask for privileges, and more importantly, requires employers to provide a legal reason for saying no.
This is in contrast to the United States, whose states: “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address flexible work schedules. Alternative work arrangements such as flexible work schedules are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee.”
Many UK workers are eager to take advantage of the new law, with a recent finding that 17 percent of employees are planning to submit or resubmit a flexible working application.
But is a flexible working law a good idea?
Tom Ewer, the online entrepreneur behind the popular blog , thinks it’s a step in the right direction, saying:
“To me this is a sign of the times, and I mean that in a positive way. I believe that as a culture, we need to shift from an attitude of employees being ‘present’ at work for a certain amount of time to simply judging people on their performance… Having said that, I don’t foresee this prompting any huge immediate shift in the UK working environment. It’s a great start, and I’m sure some people will take advantage, but I would imagine that the majority of business owners will find a reason to reject such requests.”
Though the BBC cites government estimates of £475m in economic benefits in the next 10 years,mainly due to increased productivity and lower turnover, concerns remain. The BBC reporter points out the law could make it “harder for those more in need of flexible working, increasing the risk of discrimination claims, and adding unnecessary red tape.”
Claire Mulry, an American citizen who’s lived and worked in the UK for 10 years, doesn’t foresee any big changes:
“Most business want more from their employees than a traditional 9-5 day, so I think it’s great that employees can request a flexible working pattern in return… [But] I don’t think it will dramatically change the working environment. As someone without dependents who enjoys an office working environment, I will not be applying, but I hope employers are open and able to deal with employee requests for those who need it.”
Still in its infancy, there’s no way to tell how this new law will affect the economy or lives of UK workers. But one thing’s certain: over here in the States, we’ll be watching.
Do you think flexible working policies should be written into law? Or should this be up to each individual employer?
Susan Shain (@TravlJunkette) is a travel blogger who loves helping people discover adventure through international travel or alternative careers.