Employees can now request flexible working from day one of employment

In September 2021, the Government launched a consultation titled, ‘Making flexible working the default’. As the title suggests, the consultation looked at flexible working arrangements for employees.

Following the consultation, the Government has this month published its response.

In the response, the Government has removed the requirement for an employee to have been employed for a period of 26-weeks before being eligible to request flexible working. Employees are now able to request flexible working from day one of their employment with their employer.

The report suggests that the change will make the right to request flexible working accessible to an estimated additional 2.2 million people, along with supporting participation in the workforce and improving diversity. However, some commentators think that the Government could have gone further by requiring employers to state during the recruitment process that flexibility is a possibility with the role.

Right to request not right to have

It is important to remember that the report only gives an employee the right to request, and not the right to have flexible working.

The Government has acknowledged that flexible working is not available in all roles. However, it is hoped that by allowing those conversations from day one, more employees and employers will have those conversations and come to a solution that suits both the employer and the employee.

In addition to making the right to request flexible working a day-one right, the Government has confirmed that:

  • Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (rather than one);
  • Employers will have to respond to requests within two months (rather than three months);
  • Employers will be required to consult with employees, as means of exploring the alternative options, before rejecting a flexible working request;
  • 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; and
  • The eight business reasons for refusing a flexible working request will stay in place.

Therefore is no timeline at the moment as to when these changes will come into place. There is, however, a Private Members’ Bill making its way through Parliament.

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