Flexible working set to become a day one right

In 2019 the Conservative Party expressed its wish to “encourage flexible working and consult on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to”. In 2021 the Government published a consultation on flexible working with the response being published on 5th December 2022 which can be read here.

Key changes in the Government’s response are:

  • The right to request flexible working will become a day one right instead of only being available to employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service.
  • Employees will be allowed to make two requests instead of one request within a 12-month period and employers will now have to respond within two months instead of three months. Employers will still be able to agree an extension to this.
  • Employers will now be required to discuss with the employee alternative options before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • The requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might impact upon them is now
  • The requirement to rely upon eight specific reasons for rejecting a flexible working request remains in place.

Comments

Perhaps the biggest change which employers will be faced with if this Bill is enacted, is the right of employees to request flexible working from day one of employment. This in turn means that flexible working requests may be received from newly recruited employees as soon as or shortly after they start work which may impact on business planning. For this reason, being prepared for these anticipated changes to the law is vital. Having ‘Flexible & Hybrid Working Policies’ in place is therefore likely to be very important to set the tone of your business’s approach to flexible working which is often associated with hybrid or home-working arrangements. Related policies will be a good way of initiating communication with employees about working arrangements whilst maintaining a degree of control over the working patterns of staff and hopefully avoiding the need for statutory requests where flexibility is the ‘norm’.

Employers will also welcome the news that the proposed changes do not introduce any additional sanctions for an employer’s breach of this process.

Our next FREE webinar is designed to inform and prepare you for these anticipated changes by giving you ‘Top Tips Managing Hybrid Working’. To book a place and attend this free event, please register here.

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