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Seven steps to help you start planning for ‘Day One Flex’

It’s going to take more than a policy tweak to prepare your company for the new flexible working legislation. Here are seven steps you can take to kickstart your planning.

By Nicola Smith, Interim CEO, Timewise

Are you ready for ‘Day One Flex’? It’s likely that the right to ask for flexible working from the first day in a new role, which is included in Yasmin Qureshi MP’s Private Member’s Bill, will be on the statute books by the autumn, with a start date of early 2024. So the clock is already ticking for employers, and it’s certainly not too soon to start making plans.

Like most people in the flexible working sphere, we’re really encouraged about the changes this legislation will usher in (though, as we have said previously, we do hope that it’s just the start). And we believe that business leaders who see it as an opportunity, and are proactive about doing it well, will reap clear rewards, from attracting and keeping a diverse group of talented people, to boosting their employer brand.

But it’s important to recognise that being ready for Day One Flex is not just a case of tweaking your HR policies or being willing to listen to people’s requests. It will take some time, thought and planning to get right; and in a tight labour market with widespread skills shortages, that’s more important than ever.

Here are seven steps you can take to kickstart your planning and get on the right track for when Day One Flex becomes law.

1. Start by getting clear on the flexibility you can support. There really is no one-size-fits-all for flexible working, so you need to think through what kind of arrangements your organisation will be able to offer and maintain. If you’re not sure how to approach this, our four-step Flex Positive programme could help.

An important part of this process will be exploring what flexibility is already going on within your organisation – and what other options your staff would like to see. This could include surveying your staff body about existing arrangements, and asking managers to share what they think would and wouldn’t work.

This will not only allow you to build a set of parameters that could work for each team, but also give you time to work with any leaders who are intrinsically suspicious of flexible working. Remember, many successful flexible working arrangements are agreed informally between managers and their teams, and are no less valuable than more formal arrangements.

2. Make sure your hiring managers are equipped to answer candidates’ questions. This means thinking in advance about the different ways that flexibility could be incorporated into the roles they manage. To help them do this well, you may want to consider upskilling them in the principles of flexible job design, so they have a core understanding of what is likely to work within their team.

3. Refresh your flexible working policy and processes – with more than Day One Flex in mind.  As well as the Day One right to request, the legislation also includes measures such as shortening the time employers have to respond to requests, and allowing employees to make more requests each year. So you will need to take a really good look at your current policies and processes, and make sure they’re fit for purpose.

4. Think about proactively discussing flexible working with candidates. Yes, the law will give candidates the right to ask – but once you’ve taken the time to think through what you could offer, why not be proactive and raise it yourselves? You’re far more likely to have a meaningful conversation if you do, and it will be much easier to onboard a new recruit whose flexibility has been agreed in advance than one who asks on the day they start.

5. Start spelling out the flexibility on offer in your recruitment ads. It’s also worth going a step further and highlighting the flexible options you could offer in your advertising. This will attract a wider talent pool, and give you a clear edge over other organisations which are less overtly welcoming towards flexible employees. Be specific though; as our research showed, vague references such as ‘Open to flexible working’ aren’t taken seriously and might put candidates off.

6. Consider how you’ll track the impact of your new approach. As mentioned above, embracing Day One Flex offers a real opportunity for employers to get ahead of the game on key business imperatives such as talent attraction, retention and D&I. So it makes sense to track the impact of a more proactive approach to flexible working, by capturing relevant information about working patterns during your recruitment and appraisal processes.

A valuable part of this process would be to capture qualitative examples of how the approach is working on the ground. This could include creating case studies by interviewing new recruits as they join the company, and exploring whether knowing that flexible working was available was a factor in them applying for the role.

7. Finally, don’t forget to think about communicating these changes to your current staff.  The chances are they’ll be delighted to know that you’re taking the new legislation seriously – and will be keen to see what your new approach could mean for them. And that in turn will make it more likely that they’ll stay with you for longer.

Of course, these steps are just the start. You’ll also need to think about using flexible job design to create sustainably flexible roles, and training your managers in how to support and lead flexible teams (and if this is something you need advice with, we can help). But in the meantime, and with a change this fundamental, it’s important to get the planning right. Day One Flex isn’t just a legislative change; it’s also a brilliant opportunity for forward-looking employers who believe in fairer, more inclusive workplaces. I hope these steps will help you grab it with both hands.

Published May 2023

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