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Flexible working consultation: Can you still afford to employ casual staff?

As the government consults on new rights and protections for flexible workers and those on zero hours contracts, employers are starting to brace themselves for greater regulation – and cost.

The consultation, which runs until 11th October, is all part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)’s Good Work Plan agenda, which sets out to address unfair flexible working practices. So, should employers see this as a threat to their own rights to meet the vagaries of seasonal and changeable demand by employing casual staff – and what can they do to prepare?

It has to be said that employers have had their proverbial cake and eaten it when it comes to the issue of casual working, hence the call for a “reasonable period of notice” to be given in respect of working hours as well as for the relevant employer to provide appropriate compensation for shifts cancelled at short notice. Far too many workers (nearly 40% according to a study by the Low Pay Commission) cannot even arrange a doctor’s appointment because they do not yet know their shift pattern more than a week in advance and 1.7 million workers say they feel anxious about unexpected changes to working hours.

Whatever the outcome of the consultation, change is coming and so are the opportunities for employers to endear themselves to a whole market of talented individuals who choose not to work regular office hours, for whatever reason. From working parents to millennials and ‘Gen Zedders’, the balance between work and life has never been of higher priority.

Over the past few years I have been fascinated by the way different types of businesses – large and small – have taken this shifting attitude on board. Our most recent Sideboard interview, with Catherine Boddington of National Talent Exchange, explaines how some innovative firms are embracing flexible working and turning it to their advantage.

Catherine takes the zero hours debate a step further and delves into the passion and eagerness for self-development that is such a key driver for professionals of all ages. People are no longer looking for long term security in a job, but rather purpose and fulfilment. They may be at the beginning of their careers, somewhere in the middle or right at the end, but whatever their age and stage, they have plenty to offer and lots to learn.

The point is that flexible workers are a valuable resource: they have skills, time and a different perspective that can be incredibly valuable to businesses in lots of different ways. Surely, in return for this, they should be able to depend on consideration, a fair amount of notice when it comes to shift times and changes and a level of pay that recognises the contribution they are making to their employer and the wider economy.