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With the phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ on the rise and the ability to attract and retain talent being key challenges for employers, it has never been more important for organisations to stand out in how they attract and motivate their staff to be loyal and enthusiastic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the corporate workplace with one long-lasting effect being a seismic change in the expectations of individuals in respect of both flexible and remote working.
Alan Delaney, Legal Director and Accredited specialist in Employment Law at Morton Fraser explains that businesses should also be aware of how these developments are being further encouraged by changes to the legal landscape. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill is presently going through Parliament which if passed will further establish working flexibly (both in terms of hours and location) as the ‘new normal.’
This Bill is a significant step towards making flexible working the so-called “default position”, and seeks to provide employees with further rights to make requests about where and when they wish to work. Importantly, the Bill is set to be supported by secondary legislation which would make the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right, rather than such a right only being available after a 26-week qualifying period. It will also allow employees the right to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, rather than the current position of being able to make one such request within that timescale. Employers will also have to consult with individuals if they are considering rejecting a flexible working request.
Sensibly, the Bill does not seek to impose flexible working, it provides only a more extensive right to request such an arrangement. Employers will still be able to reject a request if one of the eight current statutory business grounds apply (for example, an inability to organise work amongst other employees, or a negative impact on performance). It will also remain the case that the greater risks (so far as legal action is concerned) will arise from indirect discrimination claims, where, for example, the request is made for childcare reasons, or perhaps caring responsibilities.
However, the Bill also underscores an opportunity for employers to stand out in a crowded market, when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent. Those organisations who are able to creatively embrace and foster a diversity of working arrangements, might well secure a competitive advantage in doing so as well as contributing significantly to overall staff happiness and motivation.
Of course, flexible working can only do so much by itself. Listening to staff and implementing measures designed to make staff happy and encourage loyalty will be key as part of any holistic approach. Some organisations may well be able to take advantage of share option or long-term incentive schemes, which have as their specific purpose attracting and retaining talent.
However, small yet meaningful perks, can often catch the eye too (from fresh fruit for staff to a day’s holiday on your birthday or time off for volunteering) and alongside a supportive, collaborative environment that recognises hard work and celebrates success, are likely to help create a positive and dynamic culture individuals will wish to be part of.
It will also be important for employers to have developed clear and well-supported career paths and initiatives for career progression. By investing in programmes (e.g. mentoring) or training that assists personal development, and ensuring employees feel able to discuss their career ambitions (and are encouraged to progress), employees will be more likely to feel motivated.
So, when it comes to the battle to attract and retain talent, while legislation will provide no more than a basic minimum, as with flexible working, it can be a useful springboard to implement attractive policies that stand out from the crowd. When implemented as part of an overall strategy (including but not limited to benefits, incentives and career progression) designed to reward contribution and loyalty, it may just make all the difference when it comes to recruitment and retention.