Changes to flexible working

Government has recently published its response to the  2021 consultation on an update to the flexible working regime. In summary the Government’s response included:

1. That the right to request flexible working will become a day 1 right as opposed to after 26 weeks continuous service. However, it remains a ‘right to request’ not a right to have flexible working.

2. Employees will be allowed to make 2 requests per 12 month period (previously one request) and the time for employers to respond will reduce to 2 months (previously 3).

3. There will be a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request so that if the employer plans to reject the request it must discuss with the employee whether there are any alternative forms of flexible working available which could be offered. It is unclear at this stage whether this will be a statutory requirement giving rise to action if not complied with or whether it will simply be guidance.

4. The process to be followed by the employee making a flexible working request will be simplified – they will no longer be required to set out how the impact of the flexible working request might affect the employer and be remedied. There is no mention of the other aspects of the red tape surrounding requests eg making sure the application is dated and expressly stating it is a request made under the flexible working legislation.

5.There is to be no change to the list of 8 reasons the employer is permitted to refuse a request for flexible working

6. While the response notes that primary legislation is required to implement these changes, it doesn’t include any draft legislation or set out any timetable. However, there is a current Private Members Bill – The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill which the Government has indicated it will support and this includes the changes allowing employees to make 2 requests within 12 months and for the decision time for the employer to be reduced to 2 months.

We will keep you up to date with any changes which are to be implemented and the timetable – if you have any questions please contact a member of the Legal & HR Team.