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Flexible work must not remain “pipe dream”, says IOSH

Date posted
25 July 2023
Press release
Marcus Boocock
Estimated reading time
2 minute read

Flexible working arrangements shouldn’t be “a pipe dream”, according to IOSH. The Institution believes the introduction of new regulations in the UK which allow workers to request flexible working from the first day of a new job is a positive move.

The organisation has warned against adopting a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to flexible working. Instead, it emphasises the importance of organisations being aware of;  recognizing the advantages of; and, acknowledging the necessity for; family and worker-friendly workplaces. This includes accommodating individual needs where possible.

Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Policy at IOSH, said: “Enabling all workers to benefit from flexible working arrangements, where possible and appropriate, shouldn’t remain a pipe dream.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to work life-balance and implementing flexible worker-centric models. A flexible organisational culture includes being responsible, accommodating individual needs, and essentially having a whole-person management approach that values and supports people.


The UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade announced last week that the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill had received Royal Assent. The Act will require employers to consider and discuss any requests made by workers – who will have the right to two requests a year – within two months of a request, down from three.

It follows a consultation held in 2021, which IOSH responded to. In its response, IOSH called for flexible working to be made available to ALL employees in all industries from the first day of a new job. It also called for a reduction in the time employers are allowed to consider, and respond to, flexible working requests based on the circumstances; for clear business reasons to be given for turning requests down; for employees to understand the reasoning behind decisions; and, for there to be the possibility of exploring reasonable alternatives.

IOSH also believes that legislative developments should incentivise employers to go beyond minimum legal requirements. And it recommended that flexible working arrangements are published in job advertisements to ensure greater transparency and better-informed decision-making.

Ruth added: “Improvements in work-life balance, in the quality of working conditions, and increasing levels of independence and flexibility, facilitate workers to lead healthier and more sustainable lives. It can also lead to them experiencing greater job satisfaction and productivity, positive mental health and physical health and lower absenteeism or presenteeism.

“Work-life balance and flexibility in working arrangements should be seen as part of performance conversations and considerations. It should start from the very beginning of employment and be an ongoing process that requires human-centric leadership to be open to exploring and learning from continuing experimenting, adjustment, and adaptation. It also needs open and constructive conversations with workers.

“Aligning flexibility and protection practices need to be extended to different forms of atypical working time, to cover segments of the workforce working at night, on weekends, on shift work, or in other forms of on-call work including the platform economy and on-demand work.”


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Last updated: 31 January 2024

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