Employees to be able to request flexible working from day one

The government has proposed new changes giving employees the right to ask for flexible working from the first day in a new job. 

Under new government plans to make flexible working the default, workers will no longer need to wait 26 weeks before seeking flexible working.

Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that if an employer cannot accommodate a request to work flexibly, they will be required to discuss “alternative options” before they can reject the request. For example, if it is not possible to change an employee’s working hours on all days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.

The BEIS does however recognise that flexible working is different for every employee, employer, and sector and that it does not come in one size only.

“The government will not instruct employers or employees on how to carry out their work, instead we encourage both parties to have constructive and open-minded conversations about flexible working and find arrangements that work for each side.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Minister for Small Business Kevin Hollinrake says: “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”

Beavis Morgan’s Head of HR, Paul Simpson, adds: “The plans announced today will empower workers to have a greater say over when, where, and how they work, with the aim of improving well-being in the workplace, promoting a better work-life balance, and enhancing inclusivity. However, while businesses will hope to profit from higher productivity, improved company culture and staff retention – after all, happy employees are more productive employees! – the many benefits of office working should not be forgotten. The office environment is an important space for connecting with people one may not ordinarily interact with daily. It encourages a culture of support, collaboration and personal development. It helps to break down silos and promotes knowledge sharing. And let’s not forget that is much easier to read people’s emotions face to face than over a screen, which means better engagement and more open conversations.”

The measures the government is committing to in full will:

  • remove the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working
  • require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request
  • allow employees to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period
  • require employers to respond to requests within 2 months, down from 3
  • remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer

The full government response will be published online here in due course.

For advice and assistance relating to your business, contact your usual Beavis Morgan Client Partner or email info@beavismorgan.com.