Extended rights to request flexible working
The Government has announced changes to current rules on an employee’s right to request flexible working. The stated aim is to ‘give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when and how they work, leading to happier, more productive staff’.
Right to request flexible working
Currently, employees with 26 weeks’ service can make a statutory flexible working request to change their hours, times or place of work. Only one request can be made in any 12-month period. The employer must consider the request in a reasonable manner and notify the employee of their decision within 3 months (or longer if that is agreed with the employee). If the request is agreed, this will result in a change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment.
Under new plans announced by the Government:
- Employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment, rather than needing 26 weeks employment.
- Employees will no longer need to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
- Employers will be required to consult with the employee, as a means of exploring available options, before rejecting a flexible working request.
- Employees will be allowed to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, rather than only one.
- Employers will be required to respond to requests within two months, rather than three months.
There is no proposal to change the eight permitted business grounds on which an employer can refuse a request for flexible working.
The Government had previously issued consultation on proposals to reform the Flexible Working Regulations. The announced new plans reflect the Government’s response to that consultation. No timescale has been set out. However, the Government is supporting the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, a Private Member’s Bill, which would bring some of these changes into effect if passed. The Bill has already passed its second reading.
The Government’s announcement refers to ‘new government plans to make flexible working the default’. These changes, however, do not go that far. They extend employees’ rights to request flexible working. However, they do not give employees the right to flexible working. The response to consultation clarifies that “it is important that the legislation remains a right to request, not a right to have”. Requests can still be refused by employers in certain circumstances.
09 December 2022
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