Legally, at present, all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer have the right to request flexible working.
The Government is working to strengthen day one employment rights and increase the productivity of businesses. Under plans to modernise the way we work, employees will have the right to request flexible working from day one. Delivering on a commitment set out in the Government’s 2019 manifesto, around 2.2 million more people will be given the right to request flexible working.
The proposals, which were open to consultation up to December 2021, considered whether the current limit of one flexible working application per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs. The consultation also looked at cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request.
If an employer cannot accommodate a request, as may be the case, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer. For example, if they couldn’t change their employee’s hours on all working days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.
Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover. In addition, flexible working can boost a business’ productivity and competitiveness.
However, there are some circumstances where businesses will not be able to offer flexible working and therefore there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. An employer should still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons. Therefore, is important that government does not prescribe specific arrangements in legislation. Instead, the new plans would provide a strengthened legislative framework that seeks to encourage conversations around flexible working to be more two-sided, balancing the needs of employee and employer. It also shifts the focus to what may be possible, rather than what is not.