Flexible working consultation

Posted on October 22nd, 2021

In September 2021, the government began a consultation into flexible working requests to give staff the right to make a flexible working request as a ‘day one’ right. That is, to open up the number of people who can make the request so that it is not limited to employees who have acquired 26 weeks continuous service. This is estimated to be 2.2 million extra people who will be eligible to make a request.

Government consultation

The consultation document, titled ‘Making flexible working the default’ states in the foreword:

‘Over the past 18 months, we have all faced substantial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even for those not affected by the virus itself there has been a huge impact on how we have been able to live our lives – at home, at work and more widely. To address the immediate economic impacts, the government has put in place an unprecedented package, providing businesses and individuals with support and certainty – and spending hundreds of billions to support people’s jobs, businesses, and public services across the UK.

‘As we look beyond the initial response, we must ensure we are well placed to tackle the longer-term challenges of economic recovery. A world class approach to flexible working is a key part of the government’s ambition to build back better, ensuring that our flexible labour market is primed for the opportunities and challenges of the post COVID-19 economy. This means focusing on all forms of flexibility – when you work as well as where you work – freeing employers and employees alike from the default 9-to-5 model in order to recruit and retain the talent we need.”

The full consultation document can be found here.

Changes due to COVID-19

The government goes on to note that the pandemic has influenced the way we have all had to work, with the number of people who were required to work from home significantly increasing. No one would have thought that would have been possible – and yet it was.

Culture shift

The government accepts there will never be a one-size fits all approach because staff and business needs will not always be the same. That said, they do appear to be encouraging a culture shift to encourage genuine open dialogue on what can be done.

Focus of the consultation

The five aspects the consultation seeks to focus on are:

  • Making the right to request flexible working a day one right.
  • Whether the eight business reasons for refusing a request all remain valid.
  • Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives.
  • The administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working.
  • Requesting a temporary arrangement.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.

Employment tribunal

Flexible working request cases appear to be hitting the spotlight of late.

We recently reported on a case where a flexible working request, which was not properly considered by the employer, led to the employee resigning and successfully being awarded around £185,000 by the employment tribunal.

Details of this case can be found in the News & insights section of the CEFM website.

Need support with your HR?

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