Government Response on Flexible Working

David Reid
David Reid
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The Government has recently published its response to last year’s consultation on updating flexible working laws. Flexible working requests can relate to where an employee works, when they work, or how they work.

At the moment, employees need to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer before they can make a statutory flexible working request. However, the Government has confirmed that it intends to make the right to request flexible working a ‘day one right’, meaning that employees will be able to make such a request from the first day of their employment. This change will extend the right to request flexible working to millions of employees who currently are not able to do so.

Under current rules, eligible employees are only able to make a statutory flexible working request once a year, but the Government intends to increase the number of statutory flexible working requests that an employee can make each year from one to two. Alongside this intended change, the period of time that an employer will have to consider a flexible working request will be reduced from three to two months.

These changes are likely to lead to a greater demand on management time in dealing with an increased number of requests. The reduction in the timescale for dealing with requests will make it all the more important for employers to diarise the date when any request is received and the corresponding date by which the consideration of the request (including the handling of any appeal) needs to be concluded. In any case, employers should always aim to consider the flexible working request and to meet with the employee, where required, without delay.

When the flexible working rules are updated, employers will be under a legal duty to discuss alternatives to the request if they are inclined to refuse the request. The employer will be obliged to explore all alternative options to ascertain whether there is an alternative form of flexible working that it would be willing to accept.

Changes will also be made to the information which employees are required to provide when making a statutory flexible working request. Currently, employees must set out how they think their flexible working request will impact on the employer, but the Government intends to remove this requirement. Other current requirements, such as including the date of the request and indicating that it is a statutory flexible working request will remain.

Importantly, the Government has confirmed that it does not intend to make any changes to the list of eight business grounds upon which an employer must be able to rely when refusing a statutory flexible working request. The Government has also reiterated that, whilst employees have a right to request flexible working, they do not have a general right to be able to work flexibly where this cannot be accommodated by the employer.

The Government has not committed to any timescale for implementation of the new rules at this stage, but we shall keep you updated as these intended changes move through the legislative process.

If you need any advice on dealing with flexible working requests in the meantime, or if we can provide support on any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team on 0141 331 5150.


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