Making flexible working the default
In 2003 legislation was introduced giving employed parents and certain carers the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks continuous service. This right was extended to all employees in 2014, again for those with 26 weeks of continuous service.
In 2019, as part of the manifesto, the Conservative Party outlined a commitment to ‘encourage flexible working and to consult on making flexible working the default unless an employer had good reason not to’.
As part of this commitment, the government published a 12-week consultation in September 2021. The government published its response at the start of December 2022, detailing its findings and its proposed next steps.
At the heart of the proposals is the aim to remove any intention to tell individuals and organisations how to work, rather it aims to adopt a principle of employers and employees having ‘constructive, open-minded conversations to find arrangements that work for both parties’.
The government intends to:
- Make the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment, through secondary legislation.
- Develop enhanced guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working.
- Launch a call for evidence to better understand how informal or ad hoc flexible working works in practice.
Two requests in any 12-month period
In addition, the government also intends to take the following proposals forward via primary legislation:
- Requiring employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting their flexible request.
- Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period and requiring employers to respond to requests within two months.
- Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by the employer.
Business reasons for refusal
The consultation also considered whether the current list of eight business reasons for refusing a flexible working request remains valid and, based on the feedback, the government intends to retain the list without change.
To progress these changes, the government will continue to support the Private Member’s Bill introduced by Yasmin Qureshi MP, which passed its second reading on 28 October 2022. The government will continue to support the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill as it progresses through parliament.
Also, the government will consider introducing an awareness-raising campaign to promote this new approach to flexible working.
To progress, both primary and secondary legislation will be needed. The bill has passed its second reading in Parliament and is now at the Committee stage. No implementation date has been set as yet.
CEFM will continue to track the proposals and update members in due course.
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