A new poll by YouGov for business solutions firm Citrix reveals that nearly half (45%) of SME decision-makers are not aware that the right of employees to request flexible working arrangements will be massively extended at the end of this month.

The number of people estimated by the ONS to be regularly working from home is currently 4.2 million, or 13.9% of the total workforce; however, the new law will extend the right to request flexible working to all staff with over 26 weeks of continuous employment in a change that is likely to push this figure up substantially.

The right to request flexible working arrangements was previously confined to specific careers or to workers with young children; however, from 30th June all employers will be legally obliged to consider employee requests for flexibility.

The Citrix study strongly suggests a significant lack of preparation, support and even awareness amongst SMEs that major changes are afoot.

A number of somewhat outmoded perceptions appear to persist amongst numerous SME managers; for example, that employees who work from home do not work as hard as their colleagues working from the office. 23% of those polled cited trust as the chief barrier to adopting flexible work practices.

The study suggests that these somewhat antediluvian attitudes have the potential to result in severe friction between poorly-prepared employers and the employees who wish to exercise their new right to request flexible work arrangements.

As with recent research by Timewise, the implication may well be that reluctant managers who fail to embrace the new right may prompt more employees to begin contracting through Umbrella Companies in order to secure the flexible patterns they are seeking.

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