Millions of workers could be able to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment, under a new government proposal set to be published in the coming days.
At present, an employee does not have the right to request flexible working until they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks. The proposals would replace the current 26-week period with the ability to request flexible working from the first day of employment.
The move is not a new one and has been planned since before the 2019 general election, but was brought to light by the pandemics effect on working patterns. The proposals do not immediately replace current laws and the lengthy process of the proposal becoming law is yet to begin. Should the bill be successful, it is likely to come into effect some time in 2022 – at the very earliest.
Employees should bear in mind the legislation does not automatically give the right to demand flexible working – but gives them the right to request flexibility over the time, location and hours of work.
Employers have a duty to review the request in a “reasonable manner”. The decision on whether to grant the flexible working request is left to the discretion of the employer, and the employer has the right to refuse if the request is deemed not feasible for the organisation. If a request is refused, the employee is unable to make another formal request for 12 months. It is not yet clear whether this will be changed in the proposals.
The proposal that employees can make these requests from day one is viewed by many as a positive step in encouraging a flexible work force. There are clear benefits in allowing flexible working. It gives employers access to a wider talent pool, including workers like carers, parents, or people with disabilities that are not able to slot into the ‘traditional’ 9 – 5 office-based model of working.
After almost 18 months of working at home, flexible working requests are expected to see an increase in the coming months as the return to the workplace begins. As an employer, you must consider requests a reasonable manner – talk to advo today if you need HR advice or support with flexible working requests.