It certainly pays to be flexible. From boosting employee commitment and wellbeing to increasing productivity and cutting overheads, flexible working policies can bring a whole host of benefits. Sadly it seems many are unaware that inflexibility can also be very costly to enterprises, with research revealing that a significant proportion of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) aren’t aware they may now actually be flouting the law by not having flexible working policies in place.
Despite legislation that came into effect on June 30 this year giving employees the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements after 26 weeks’ employment, according to recent research conducted by Sage UK, the business software and services provider, a third of SMEs are not meeting the regulations. Furthermore one in ten small businesses were entirely unaware the regulation existed, meaning that a number of SMEs could find themselves blindsided by legal action if they are found not to have considered an employee’s request in a reasonable manner.
But it seems SMEs aren’t lacking in awareness of the positives flexible working can bring. Of the 400 business owners surveyed, almost a third believed meaningful flexible working policies would bring their working arrangements into the 21st century and 30% felt it would help boost employee productivity. This is not to say there aren’t a few practical concerns, however: whilst 46% of the small businesses spoken to felt they had the technologies in place to facilitate flexible working, 40% believed that flexible working will be expensive to implement.
Unfortunately, there is no time for debating the issue and employers looking to secure the benefits flexible working can bring – or wanting to avoid the punitive measure of a costly employment tribunal – need to move quickly.
Rob Davis, head of technology of the Small and Medium Business Division at Sage UK, said: “This should be viewed as an opportunity, not a hurdle to overcome, as flexible working can produce immense benefits for a small business. A boost to staff morale, increased productivity and improved efficiency can all go a long way in unlocking business growth.
“Small businesses need to make sure they’re set up to provide flexible working should their employees request it. Being not so flexible is no longer an option, this a legislative directive and it cannot be ignored.
“But what this research shows is the need for small businesses to get their house in order to avoid being punished by an employment tribunal.”