Flexible working: the Government's proposals


The Government has published its long-awaited proposals on reforming the flexible working request regime.   Although its proposals are hardly earth-shattering (and reflect what many employers already do), employers will need to ensure that they are prepared. 

The Government has committed to making the following changes to the current regime: 

  • removing the requirement for employees to have 26-week service before they can request flexible working, making it a day-one right;
  • requiring employers to consult with their employees to explore alternative options, before rejecting a flexible working request;
  • allowing employees to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period;
  • requiring employers to respond to requests within 2 months, a reduction on the current 3 month period; and 
  • removing the requirement for employees to set out how their employer could manage the impact of their request.

The changes are broadly sensible, but they do shift some responsibility from the employee to the employer to identify possible alternative options if a request cannot be accommodated, take a more consultative approach and identify how working arrangements can be managed so as to minimise any negative impact.   Employers should be doing this already, given the potential discrimination claims which can arise from refusals of flexible working requests, but if not should consider implementing this ahead of the legislation being introduced, to ensure that they are prepared for their new statutory duties.  

It's not currently clear when these changes will come into force, but as most of the changes will be introduced via regulations rather than an Act of Parliament, this should happen fairly swiftly.  The Government will also publish updated guidance on handling flexible working requests.   

featured image