As of June 30, 2014, all UK employees now have the legal right to request work flexibility.

Since 1996, caregivers and parents have had this “right to request” flexibility in the UK.  Now the UK government has gone a step further: the new law applies to all workers (after 26 weeks of employment). According to the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, approximately 20 million people will now be able to request a flexible schedule from their employers.

“Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow,” said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. “It’s about time we brought working practices up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families.”

A recent BBC article, “Flexible Working Rights Extended to All,” notes that the change in the law is expected to be particularly helpful to older workers who want to continue working as well as to younger employees who may be balancing work with school.

In an interview with the BBC, the UK Federation of Small Businesses expressed concern about the new law, warning that many smaller companies may not be able to offer flex work to their employees for a myriad of reasons, and that denying a request might potentially create animosity in the workplace.

These companies shouldn’t worry, though. We’ve seen work flexibility thrive in companies both large and small, both in the U.S. and abroad. All it requires is a corporate culture that embraces—and enforces—flexible schedules. This shift in perception happens when employers see work flexibility as a benefit to them, as well as their employees. When they realize that flex work creates higher employee engagement, boosted productivity, motivated (and happier!) workers, higher retention rates, and significant cost savings, then companies worldwide will welcome work flexibility with open arms.

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