September saw the release of the Government’s ‘Making flexible working the default’ consultation. The proposal includes the right for employees to ask for flexible working from day one of their employment, rather than waiting the current 26 weeks of continuous employment. This has hit the headlines in recent weeks as much of the UK workforce proved that flexible working, including working from home, was perfectly achievable under the stay-at-home orders in the pandemic.
What’s being introduced?
The consultation aims to collect views from individuals and business on reforms that will potentially be made to The Flexible Working Regulations. As well as the right to request flexible working from day one with a company, other key considerations include:
- Requiring employers to suggest alternatives if the request is not approved.
- Determining if the eight reasons that an employer can currently give to reject an application for flexible working are still valid.
- Examining the administrative process around the right to make a flexible working request.
- Temporary arrangements.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working gives the employee and employer the ability to come to an arrangement regarding their working pattern. This can include specific working hours, days or location. The regulations surrounding flexible working were originally introduced in 2003 for parents and carers, and later extended to include all employees in 2014, provided they had 26 weeks’ employment under their belt.
Does it work for everyone?
There are some industries where flexible working may prove challenging or not possible. Industries where a physical presence is required such as healthcare, catering and hospitality in general may find it difficult to provide the same level of flexibility as sectors where most roles are office-based. But as the consultation suggests, employers will now be required to suggest alternatives.
Many people think flexi-working is just the ability to work from home but the consultation seeks to go further than that and give workers more control over their working arrangements.
Will my business be affected?
Following the end of the consultation period your business may be required to implement the recommended changes, so it’s worth keeping an eye on any changes to the legislation after this time. It may be that you have already introduced some elements of flexible working to your business since the pandemic began, in which case it could just be a case of expanding this or aligning with the regulations.
How can I respond?
To have your say you can add your response to the consultation on the Government website. It closes on 1st December 2021 so do ensure that your comments are submitted before this time.