Join our webinar to hear from the Taskforce chair, Peter Cheese, on the work ahead, and learn from our panel experts how your organisation – regardless of size – can take the first steps to successfully enabling a mutually beneficial transition to hybrid working.

Our panel of experts include:

  • Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD
  • Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, MP
  • Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser – Resourcing and Inclusion, CIPD
  • Gary Wedderburn, Subject Matter Expert, Workplace Policy Team, ACAS
  • Andrew Willis, Head of Legal, Croner
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Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers & Labour Markets, and Minister for London, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Ladies and gentlemen hi. A big thank you to the CIPD for arranging this event and for the invitation to speak today. Over the past 15 months, we have all faced substantial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a huge impact on how we've been able to live our lives, at home, at work and more widely. But as we look beyond the initial response, we must ensure that we're well placed to tackle the longer-term challenges of economic recovery.

A world class approach to flexible working is a key part of the government's ambition to build back better, ensuring that our flexible labour market is ready for the opportunities and challenges of the post COVID-19 economy.

I want to start by talking about the importance of flexible working from the employee perspective. The UK is undoubtedly a great place to start and grow a business, home to some of the world's best companies large and small. But for many jobs, there are still many invisible restrictions that hold people back, like the need to live in high-cost accommodation close to the centre of cities, or maintain working arrangements that are really hard to combine with family or other responsibilities.

We want to enable a high skill, high productivity, high wage economy, that also delivers on our ambition to make the UK the best place to work, whoever you are and wherever you live. Offering flexibility to balance work and home life can be key to ensuring participation and progression in the labour market and to opening up employment opportunities for everyone, regardless of their gender, age, disability or location. But flexible working isn't just good for employees, we know that it can bring considerable benefits for employers.

By removing the invisible restrictions to jobs, flexible working fosters a more diverse workforce, and the evidence shows that this leads to improved financial returns for business. Furthermore, workers who have more flexibility are more motivated at work and more likely to stay with their employer. There's a strong unmet demand for more flexible jobs, with research conducted by the behavioural insights team showing that offering flexible working could attract up to 30% more applicants to job vacancies.

So the business case for flexible working is absolutely clear. And while we need to be mindful of focusing too narrowly on one type of flexible working, we should also seek to capitalise on the advances made to support remote working during the pandemic. But we’ve got to do so in ways that acknowledge that remote working may not work well for everyone. We need to continue to develop the skills to manage people, on the one hand to ensure businesses fully get the business benefits, on the other, to ensure good wellbeing and mental health in the workforce.

Some people will have reported higher levels of productivity while working from home, but others would have struggled to maintain or improve their performances. Some will have benefited from saving time on their work commute, while others will be keen to redraw the line between work and home.

From an organisational standpoint, the enhanced technological capabilities focuses minds on which things we can only do or do best, collectively in the office, such as building relationships, accessing training and development opportunities. Now with businesses now able to return to workplaces, my understanding is that many employers are considering a hybrid model of workplace and remote working, for at least part of their workforce. Employers need the flexibility to work through the best solutions for their particular contexts. That's why I've asked the flexible working task force to initially focus its attention on hybrid working advice, before turning to the longer-term issue of considering flexible working more widely. The first piece of advice published by ACAS, the subject of today's webinar, is a sensible and balanced piece of work. It's important that employers are getting the guides that they need, to introduce hybrid working fairly and legally.

Looking ahead, I want to see the task force move on to consider best practise around hybrid working, as a means of addressing some of the issues that are likely to evolve as organisations work through the practicalities of what will be, for many, a new way of working. So as we move forward, and the economy continues to open up, we've got to build on what we've learned about flexible working, the benefits and the pitfalls, to support our economic recovery. I'm really encouraged that events such as this one serve to support this learning and work towards achieving better quality employment, better relations with the workforce, and better business performance in the long term. I hope you enjoy today's webinar.

DISCLAIMER: The materials provided here are for general information purposes and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. The CIPD is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any action or decision taken as a result of using the guidance. You should consult the government website for the very latest information or contact a professional adviser for legal or other advice where appropriate.

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