Leading employee benefits provider Unum UK is now offering its staff flexible working request rights from day one of employment, rather than waiting 6 months under current employment law. Of its 850+ staff, almost one in five (19%) currently work flexibly — either part-time or full-time compressed hours.

Unum is responding to a clear need identified in its 2022 research into sandwich generation workers, which showed:

• Nearly a quarter (24%) had needed to take time off work to manage their caring responsibilities
• Only 38% of employers offered flexible working hours to help balance work and home responsibilities
• Over 2 in 5 employees (43%) would like to see their employer improve flexible work arrangements

The new positive changes include allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (rather than just one a year), as well as a commitment to respond to requests within 2 months (down from 3 months currently). Unum will also remove the requirement for employees to explain how their flexible working request might work.

As the workforce ages and more people are balancing their professional and home lives, almost half (46%) of all part-time workers in the UK say that they were doing so to spend more time with their family, due to domestic commitments or to fit work around childcare responsibilities.

Jane Hulme, HR Director at Unum UK, comments:
“The workplace and the needs of employees are changing rapidly and we are keen to lead the way and reflect the legislative changes before it becomes mandatory. As a responsible employer of choice, Unum recognises that embracing a flexible approach and being amenable will help attract and retain staff. This is crucial given the continued rise in the cost of childcare, which could risk pricing some parents out of employment.”

Unum employee Nick Paffitt shares his experience of requesting flexible working in order to undertake further education:

“The application process was very straightforward and, once agreed, the change was implemented quickly. I found both management and HR were both very amenable to the request and very supportive. I did discuss the request with my line manager beforehand to confirm the reason and also to look at what might be a suitable day for me to request as my non-working day as there are other people on my team who have compressed hours. I think this initial conversation before I submitted the application helped the process run smoothly”.