Changes to the rules on flexible working have been anticipated for a long time. The 2019 Conservative Party manifesto mentioned making flexible working the default position. This was again confirmed in the Queen’s Speech. Subsequently, in September a consultation was launched on the topic.
The government has now responded to the consultation and confirmed which proposals they will be taking forward.
The main change is that it will become a day one right to make a flexible working request. The current position is that an employee must have worked for the employer for 26 weeks before they are eligible to make a request. The results of the consultation found that because of this rule the perception was that flexible working was something to be earned. However, many employers would say that the current position allows for new employees to settle in and be properly trained before such requests are made.
While the procedure for making a flexible working request have been largely unchanged there are a few key points to consider. Currently, employees can only make one request in a 12-month period. This will be increased to two. Another issue is that presently the entire flexible working request process must take no longer than three months (including any appeals). This has been reduced to two months. This is quite a tight time frame to have meetings and properly consider the request being made and will inevitably take up a lot of business time. One thing to note is that it is possible to agree a longer time period with the employee in question. It may be useful to make this a standard practice if employers wish to avoid falling foul of these time restrictions.
These changes will be made when Parliamentary time allows and there has been no indication of a time frame as yet. Nevertheless, employers will need to be ready to amend their policies to ensure they are compliant with the law.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.