The Government has announced that employees will receive a day one right to request flexible working as part of plans to make flexible working the default position. The aim of this is to give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when and how they work and hopes to normalise conversations about flexible working to benefit employees in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance.
Many employees in the UK are already working flexibly, whether working from home, job-sharing, flexitime or working compressed, annualised or staggered hours. The current law allows employees to make a flexible working request after 26 weeks of employment with employees able to make one request every 12 months and employers being required to respond within three months. However, this is all set to change as proposed new legislation will allow employees the option of requesting flexible working from their first day of employment.
What are the key takeaways for employers following the announcement on flexible working?
- The 26-week qualifying period for employees to be allowed to make a flexible working request will be removed. Employees will have the right to make such a request from day one of employment.
- Employees will be allowed to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (they were previously only able to make one request within the same period).
- Employers will be required to consult with their employees to explore the available options before rejecting a flexible working request. For example, if the request relates to working hours, then employers could consider that although it may not be possible to change working hours on all days, it may be possible to make a change on some days.
- Employers will be required to respond to requests for flexible working within 2 months (they previously had to respond within 3 months).
- The requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer will be removed.
It is hoped that by offering more flexible jobs and workplaces, it will help organisations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce and help increase levels of job satisfaction, wellbeing and employee performance.
Access to the full Government response to the consultation can be found here: Making flexible working the default: government response to consultation (publishing.service.gov.uk).
Employers should ensure they act carefully and reasonably when dealing with flexible working requests and if in doubt should seek legal advice.