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Start prepping for Day One Flex now – seven steps

Get ready for Day One Flex – it’ll be here sooner than you think and the planning starts, NOW.

Soon, millions of employees will have the right to ask for flex from their very first day in a new job. How ready is your business for this change?  The right to ask for flexible working from the first day in a new role, which was included in Yasmin Qureshi MP’s Private Member’s Bill, is likely to be on the statute books by the autumn with a start date of early 2024. The clock has started ticking, and it’s certainly not too soon to start making plans.

We at Timewise are encouraged about the changes this legislation will usher in (though we hope that it’s just the start). Business leaders who see the opportunity to show leadership on Day One Flex will reap clear rewards, from attracting and retaining a diverse group of talented people, to demonstrating how they are future-forward employer brand.

But being ready for Day 1 Flex, takes more than updating your HR policies or being willing to listen to people’s requests. It will take thought, time and careful planning to get right. In a tight labour market with acute skills shortages, that’s more important than ever.

Here are seven steps to help get you on the right track for when Day One Flex becomes law.

  • Get clear on your ‘flex possibles’. There is no one-size-fits-all for flexible working, so you need to think through what kind of flex set-ups your company can realistically offer and maintain. We recommend you survey staff now, before summer, to identify what forms of flex are already in play – don’t forget many flex arrangements are informal, but treated as rock solid and felt to be vital by the teams that use them. Get under the skin of which arrangements are working – and which aren’t. Ensure to involve managers closely, encourage them to share their views on what would and wouldn’t work. You will begin to build a heat map of ‘flex possibles’ that could work for each team. And crucially, you’ll now have a sense of any team leaders who seem unduly suspicious of flexible working – with time to work with them on it.
  • Train your hiring managers for the change – This will evolve more than changing a policy. Actively prepare your managers to handle questions about potential flexible working arrangements. Agree when in the hiring process, the business should flag that it is ready for a flexible working conversation (we at Timewise encourage flexible options to be included in the job ad from the word ‘go’). You may want to send them on a course on the principles of good flexible design.
  • Time for a flex refresh beyond anticipating the ask… Did you know that as well as the Day One right to request, the incoming legislation also includes measures such as reducing the length of time that employers have to respond to requests, and allowing employees to make more requests each year. It’s time to take a close look at your current flexible working policies and processes in full, and make sure they’re fit for purpose.
  • Think about proactively discussing flexible working with candidates. While the law will give candidates the right to ask – we would advise it’s better be proactive and raise the possibility first, as a business. Candidates tell us they hate raising the ‘F’ word in a hiring negotiation and liken it to a game of poker, where someone has to show their hand first. You’re far more likely to have a meaningful conversation if you take the initiative. It will also be much easier to onboard a new joiner whose flex has been agreed in advance. Don’t wait for that request on Day One… it should not come as a surprise.
  • Start spelling out the flexibility on offer in your recruitment ads. 9 in 10 people in the UK want flexibility in their next job. 6 in 10 people already have some kind of flex. Yet just 3 in 10 job ads ever include flexible working options. There is real opportunity here for pro flex workplaces to stand out by being open on options from the moment a role is advertised. This will attract a wide talent pool, and give you an edge over other organisations which are less overtly welcoming towards employees who want and need flexibility. A word of warning: be specific though; as our research showed, candidates do not like the generic phrase: ‘open to flexible working’ – 45% of people searching for a flexible job will click away, when they see this. 
  • Decide how to track your progress Day 1 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 an inclusive and open approach to flexible working. Plus, this change offers the opportunity to record history in action and your company’s role within it. Why not capture a couple of case studies as people join your business? You can record their work history up to now, why they need flex, if they have encountered barriers with employers over this before and how it feels to be able to talk about flex opening in the hiring process.
  • Think about how new flexible hires will affect your existing staff.  The chances are that your open approach to flexible hiring will be welcomed by staff. They’ll also be keen to see what it could mean for them. Ensure to communicate with them openly and honestly from the start and let them now that you are committed to fair flexible futures in your workplace.

Of course, these steps are just the beginning.  Sustainable flexible jobs have to be designed as such. Managers will need to be trained in how to support and lead flexible teams.

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