Flexible working update

Following on from our recent article on Flexible Working Requests the government has now published their response to their consultation on the same subject - Making Flexible Working the Default. That response will guide governmental support for the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill introduced in October 2022.

The conclusion of the consultation was that “ the Government believes that making the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment is a proportionate step to take. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to work arrangements and it is important that the legislation remains a right to request, not a right to have”.

In relation to the current eight business grounds to reject requests, the consultation concluded “the Government will retain the current list of business reasons and not make any changes”.

The government supports a change to require employers to “consult with their employee, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting their flexible working request.

In relation to time frames, currently employees can make one statutory flexible working request in a 12-month period, and employers must respond within three months. The government supports increasing requests to two in a 12-month period, and requiring the employer to respond more quickly, reducing the current three months to two.

The current requirements state that the employee must set out how the effects of their request might be dealt with by the employer. The Government intends to remove this.

Temporary requests should be able to be raised and the government will look into developing clearer guidance and raising awareness of these requests as well as launching a ‘call for evidence’ to better understand how informal or ad hoc flexible working works in practice.

Changes will be made through primary and secondary legislation but it is currently unknown when these will come into force. Employers should keep looking out for updates and ensure their current policies are able to be updated, particularly in relation to the new proposed shorter time frames. Employers should also start preparing to have a process in place to be able to discuss options with employees rather than simply relying on the eight business grounds when making rejections.

Posted on 01/12/2023 by Ortolan

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