Latest research from Phoenix Group reveals gap in talking about flexible working

04/04/2024

New insight from Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, has found that many UK employees and their managers have still to discuss the new flexible working legislation coming into effect on 6th April, with a quarter of employees (24%) not feeling confident about discussing it with their managers.

The new legislation – known as the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 – allows employees to ask to work flexible hours from day one of their employment contract.

But many employers and employees (56%) don’t appear to have discussed what it may mean for them, either formally during appraisals, or informally.

Phoenix Group’s research also found managers are less likely to have discussed flexible working options with male employees than their female counterparts (36% to 41%).

Furthermore, only a quarter (26%) of those aged 55+ reported that their manager has had a conversation with them about flexible working, compared with double that number of 18–34-year-olds (52%) who had discussed the topics with their boss*.

Commenting on the changing working world, Sara Thomson, Chief HR Director, Phoenix Group, said:

“The way we all view the working world has dramatically changed, and with it comes a real opportunity to re-evaluate our working practices. It’s important that employers are implementing new ways of working which look to balance both business and employee needs.

“At Phoenix Group, our insight shows us just how important flexible working is to many of our employees and to helping people stay in work, earn an income and contribute economically. This is why it’s important for everyone to understand and consider the legislative changes being introduced this month.“

Upcoming legislative changes to flexible working include

Employees will be entitled to request flexible working arrangements from the very first day of their employment rather than after 26 weeks as is currently the case.
Employees will be entitled to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, rather than just one.
Employers will be required to respond to requests within two months of receiving them, rather than three.
Employees will no longer have to explain the impact granting the request would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
Employees can bring claims to an Employment Tribunal if they feel there were failings in the way their request was handled by their employer (e.g. it’s been refused for an improper reason or that it was dealt with unreasonably or took too long). Tribunals can order that the request be reconsidered and order a penalty paid by the employer to the employee of up to eight week’s pay.

When it comes to what people value most in flexible working, Phoenix Group’s longevity think tank Phoenix Insights, whose core work is currently looking at financial security, work, learning and skills, has identified the priorities for how employees want to work in the future:

62% want flexibility over the hours they work. 43% want flexibility over where they are based when they work​.
40% want flexibility over the way they work.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of those aged 55+, said they wanted flexibility “over the hours they work”.

While 87% of people want to work more flexibly, only 31% of job adverts in the UK offer this as an employment benefit according to flexible working specialists, Timewise.

Sara Thompson continued:

“We introduced our flex programme, ‘Phoenix Flex’ in 2023, allowing flexible work from day one of employment quite simply because we believe that if we want to attract, retain and develop a talented, diverse workforce to achieve our business goals, we needed to think outside the office based 9-5 model.

“Phoenix Flex is a framework which outlines our approach to flexibility and supports leaders and colleagues with policies, training, and regular communications to embed our culture of flexibility. “19% out of our 7,800 colleagues work a fixed flexible pattern with a much greater number opting for a more informal approach. Female colleagues and those over the age of 50 are the groups making the greatest use of the flexibility we offer, including working part-time or compressed hours.

“Almost 30% of the population in the UK is over 50+ and we need to ensure we attract and retain experienced skilled workers, and enable them to stay in meaningful, well-paid work for as long as possible. We know from our own experience that offering flexible working helps to attract talent, increases productivity, reduces sickness absence and retains over 50s in our workforce. This in turn allows them to pay into their pensions, save for the future, and avoid the pensions saving gap that so many people in the UK are facing.

“We are working with managers across the organisation, discussing flexible working with colleagues, in a way which drives performance and supports both customers and colleagues. We support the leader and team on how to make Phoenix Flex work, whether that is following the right process, balancing preferences with business needs or learning more about what has worked for other teams.

“We want to support colleagues to perform to their best while balancing all other aspects of their life.

“We believe the implementation of the new flexible working legislation will make a real change to how the workplace evolves in the future for employers and employees.”

The latest stories