British SMBs Uncertain About New Flexible Working Rights for All

July 03, 2014, 8:56 AM GMT+0

A new study by YouGov on behalf of Citrix has found almost half (45%) of small and medium business (SMB) decision makers in Britain remain unaware of significant changes to UK employment laws on flexible working.

New laws have come into force on June 30th granting UK employees with more than 26 weeks continuous employment the legal right to request flexible working options (something previously only available to those with young children and certain careers) while their employer will have a legal obligation to consider their request. However, according to the study commissioned there is a significant lack of awareness, preparation and support for the new legislation amongst UK SMBs, potentially leading to severe friction between ill-prepared employers and staff who wish to work more flexibly.

The main findings are below;

  • Only half (55%) of SMB decision makers are aware of the new legislation
  • Almost half (46%) of SMBs have no flexible working policy in place
  • Only 43% of SMB decision makers support the legislation, 21% believe it will negatively impact their business
  • Trust and perceived impact on culture are the main barriers to change, not technology
  • There are significant generational differences in attitude as SMB bosses 25 to 34 are twice as likely to support the legislation as those over 55

Stats Suggest Benefits of Flexible Working but SMBs Are Wary

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills estimates that in its first 10 years, the change in flexible working opportunities will bring overall economic benefits of £475million through improved business efficiency and employee satisfaction. However, of the SMBs polled that don’t offer flexible working options at present, only one in twenty (5%) believe that the new legislation will have a positive impact on their business, while one in five (21%) believed it would in fact have a negative impact. Increased productivity is cited by the Government as a key outcome of the legislation, yet only 16% of those small and medium businesses that don’t offer flexible working believed this would be a benefit from the change.

Millennial Generation Most Favourable to the Flexible Work Movement

SMB leaders aged 25-34 were more than twice as likely to be in favour of flexible working as their older counterparts aged 55+ (68% vs. 32% respectively), and three times as likely to see it having a positive impact on their business (21% vs. 7%).

Mobile Workspace Technologies Critical to Helping Flexible Work Overcome Existing Perception Problem

Despite 4.2 million people now regularly working from home, it appears many small business managers retain the view that ‘those working from home are not working as hard’. Almost a quarter of those polled (23%) named ‘trust’ as a barrier to adoption of a more flexible approach while ‘culture change’ was cited as the second most common barrier cited (16%). However, rapid advances in technology and it’s ever increasing affordability mean that just over one in ten (11%) view this as a potential barrier.

See full poll results