Consultation Launched on Changes to Flexible Working
The Government has launched its consultation on the proposed changes to flexible working: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/making-flexible-working-the-default.
Changes to flexible working had been included in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto and the Government had confirmed its intention back in June 2021 to move forward with its proposed changes.
The main points that the Government is consulting over, include:
- Changing the right on the part of a worker to request flexible working to a “day one” right meaning that workers will no longer have to have at least 26 weeks service to request flexible working
- Whether the current reasons that an employer can give when rejecting a request need to change
- Possible changes to the process by which employers have to consider requests including shortening the time for responding to an application
- Requiring employers, when dealing with a request, to consider alternatives; and
- Allowing for a temporary flexible working arrangements.
However, one key point to note is that it will still remain a right to request flexible working and not a default right to work flexibly. Whilst employers may, under the proposals have to consider requests quicker and provide more detail in rejecting a request, it will still be open for an employer to turn down requests.
Reviewing the consultation, the Government had been looking at the potential to turn the current right to request into a “right to have” flexible working, removing the ability of an employer to turn down a request. However, this has been rejected with the consultation stating:
“given the range of different roles and ways of working within them, the multiple forms of flexible working, the broad range of individual needs and the wide range of business models, even within sectors, we do not consider this achievable in a practical or sensible way”.
Notwithstanding that this will still be a right to request flexible working, the changes contemplated by the consultation are significant and will further highlight the increased importance of flexible working including how employers deal with requests to work flexibly. As more and more workplaces open up following lockdown, employers mandating a return to the office are likely to face more applications for flexible working with employees wanting current home working arrangements to continue to some degree.
With a recent tribunal case seeing an employee awarded compensation of £185,000 stemming largely from an employer’s failure to properly deal with flexible working request, employers will need to ensure that they understand the changes and how they should deal with flexible working requests.
We will be looking at the proposed changes to flexible working in more detail at our free Employment Law update webinar on 10 November 2021.
If you have any queries on the proposed changes or how flexible working requests need to be dealt with please contact our Employment Team.