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Flexible working consultation

A consultation on amending the right to request flexible working has been published.

The consultation document looks at the following issues:

  • Making the right to request flexible working a Day 1 right: currently the right to request flexible working kicks in once someone has been employed for 26 weeks. The consultation asks whether this should be available to all employees from the first day of employment.
  • Reasons for refusing a request: the government still believes that ‘employers should be able to reject a request for flexible working where there are sound business reasons to do so’. However the consultation asks whether the eight existing reasons for rejecting requests are still valid.
  • Suggesting alternatives: currently an employer simply must state that it cannot accommodate request and give the relevant business reason why that is so. To encourage a culture where employers fully consider requests for flexible working and what might be possible – rather than simply rejecting the immediate proposal which has been put forward – the consultation asks how practical it is to ask employers to set out, when rejecting a request, that alternatives have been considered.
  • Administration of the right to request: currently employees can only make one request to work flexibly every 12 months and the employer has three months in which to respond. The consultation asks whether allowing employees to make more than one statutory request per year would make the legislative framework more responsive to changes in an individuals’ circumstances and introduce more dynamism into the process. It also asks whether the three-month response time remains the right one.
  • Temporary arrangements: currently employers and employees can agree temporary flexible working arrangements. The consultation asks whether this is under-utilised.
  • Other matters: in 2019, as part of its Proposals to Support Working Families, the government suggested that employers might be required to (a) publish their flexible working policies and (b) state in job advertisements whether they offered flexible working. This consultation states that the government will not be introducing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to publishing a flexible working statement or policy, enforced by a legislative requirement. It also says that the government has decided against introducing a statutory requirement for employers to state in job advertisements whether flexible working is available.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021