Flexible Working consultation

The Government has today published a consultation Making Flexible Working the Default on new proposals to make the right to request flexible working a day 1 entitlement, as well as its response to consultation on a new right to unpaid carer’s leave.

Currently the statutory right to request flexible working only applies to employees with 26 weeks or more service with their employer. The statutory framework was introduced in 2003 and extended in 2014. The Government’s 2019 manifesto committed to encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to. Arguably the proposals fall some way short of that position, but if the new proposals were implemented, it is estimated that around 2.2 million more people would be given the right to request flexible working.

Although the proposals come against the backdrop of a huge shift to home and hybrid working as a result of COVID-19, the consultation applies to a wide range of flexible working options such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement.

The consultation sets out 5 proposals for reshaping the existing statutory framework:

  • Making the right to request flexible working (“Request”) a day 1 right;
  • Considering whether the 8 business reasons for refusing a Request all remain valid;
  • Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives if a Request is rejected;
  • Changes to the administrative process underpinning the right to Request; and
  • Whether there should be more potential to request a temporary arrangement.

Responses to the consultation are due by 1 December 2021.