83% of UK’s businesses not flexible enough for employees, new research highlights

New research* released today highlights that nearly 50% of respondents would reject a substantial 15% pay increase if it meant forfeiting workplace flexibility, even in a challenging financial climate.

Despite attractive flexible working policies outweighing the need for increased remuneration, the research – conducted by payroll and HR software company PayFit – also shows that a sizable 83% of those surveyed felt improvement was needed to their current workplace’s flexible working policies.

These new findings highlight a growing concern that businesses may not be adequately addressing talent retention issues, risking a potential talent drain to more flexible competitors following the release of expanded flexible working guidelines on April 6, 2024.

When in force, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill will grant millions of UK workers the right to request adjustments to particular terms and conditions of employment, including working hours, times and locations

Alongside the Bill, workers will also have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job.

The survey indicates that even though flexible working is being adopted, businesses aren’t quite getting it right; 32% stated they were not happy with the flexible working policy their employer offers, alongside an initial 83% that expressed the need for policy improvements; findings that imply a substantial gap between existing policies and what employees consider to be effective and satisfactory in terms of flexibility.

Behind the dissatisfaction with flexible working, respondents cited reasons such as lack of trust, diminished confidence in their personal value, and more need for transparency in current flexible working environments.

  • A quarter of respondents (25%) expressed a need for more trust within their workplace
  • 34% said they felt uncomfortable requesting flexibility, signalling a disconnect between employees and existing policies
  • 14% felt that undertaking flexible working hindered their progression
  • 18% were concerned about how taking up flexible working practices might be raising questions about commitment to the business
  • 30% didn’t feel their current flexible working policies were embraced or encouraged.

For businesses grappling with outdated or rigid policies, PayFit hopes both the research findings and the impending legislation change will prompt businesses to re-evaluate their approach and adapt to the evolving needs of their workforce.

CEO and Co-Founder, PayFit, Firmin Zocchetto comments: “Covid kick-started flexible working expectations, and policies were drawn up in haste at the time. However, our research suggests that the vast majority of employees see room for improvement with the current flexible working options available to them. It’s also clear that even as financial pressures mount, employees are placing a premium on the ability to tailor their work arrangements to suit their lifestyles.

“With the impending legislative changes, it’s time for businesses to review their policies and add a layer of sophistication to offerings so that the benefits are attractive to employees’ needs. The good news is, there’s a wealth of data available for employers to tap into, giving them better-than-ever insights on what flexibility truly means to their employees. Turning this data into a meaningful employee experience will be integral to their strategy for growth and retaining top talent. The research is clear: for sustained success and employee happiness, businesses need to cultivate a workplace culture that embraces flexibility at every touchpoint, offer remuneration packages that are balanced between financial and personal wellbeing, and deliver relevant flexible working policies that are attuned to real and current needs and trends.”