Government launches consultation on making flexible working the default position

Following the changes to working practices brought about by the pandemic, the government is considering making the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right and whether to require an employer to consider alternatives when refusing a request.

In its consultation launched today, the government is seeking views on five proposals it has set out to potentially reshape the current legislation:

• removing the 26-week qualifying period for making a request, making the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right;

• whether the eight existing business reasons for refusing a statutory request for flexible working remain valid in today’s world;

• requiring employers to suggest alternatives if they intend to refuse a request (rather than simply rejecting it);

• the administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working; and

• how the right to request a temporary flexible arrangement could be better utilised.

As part of the consultation, the government also invites its ‘flexible working taskforce’ to consider how to develop flexible working beyond Covid-19 and make the most of the lessons learnt (good and bad) over the last 18 months as more people start to return to the workplace and as employers respond with new approaches to working; and considering how to secure a genuinely flexible working friendly culture across and within organisations.

The government also intends to launch a call for evidence looking at the sorts of ‘extra’ flexibility people may need to help them live their lives in the best way they can – both at work and at home. It will explore the need for ‘ad hoc’ and informal flexibility and how this can best be supported.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.

If you would like to discuss a situation you are currently dealing with, or for advice on any aspect of employment law, contact Aaron Heslop in our Employment team.

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