The pandemic has resulted in a substantial rise in home working, with many employees wanting to continue working flexibly. Taking this into account, the Government has published a consultation entitled Making Flexible Working the Default.

What might change?

While there is no plan to bring in an automatic right for employees to work flexibly, the consultation does propose to change the approach to flexible working. The suggested proposals include:

  • making the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right
  • making changes, if necessary, to the reasons for refusing a request to work flexibly
  • requiring employers to suggest alternatives to the arrangement suggested by the employee
  • changing the administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working
  • raising awareness of the existing right of employees to request a temporary flexible arrangement

How will this impact employers?

The key change employers need to be aware of is that employees won’t be required to have 26 weeks’ service before they can ask for flexible working. Instead, the consultation proposes that it should be a ‘day one’ right, i.e. as soon as employment begins.

Employers will therefore need to consider early in the recruitment process whether, or how, the job can be done flexibly. If a request is refused then employers will need to consider alternative options for the employee.

There could also be changes to the administrative process in responding to a request. The consultation is considering whether to give employees the opportunity to make more than one request each year while also reducing the current three-month limit for employers to respond to any request.