Nighat Sahi

Published 30 September 2021

New Laws on Flexible Working

Flexible working has been a hot topic since the start of the pandemic for obvious reasons. Yesterday, a consultation document released by the government revealed plans to introduce new laws which will give employees the right to request to work from home from the first day that they start work. The document also announced new entitlements for unpaid carers.

The current law in respect of flexible working

Under the present rules, employees need to have worked for an employer for six months before they can request flexible working. What’s more, employers have three months in which to make a decision about the request, although they must consider the request in a “reasonable manner”.

The proposed changes

Under the proposals, employees will not only be able to request flexible working as a day one entitlement but it is understood that businesses will have to respond more quickly than the current three-month period. Employers will be able to reject the request if they have sound business reasons for doing so but will need to explain those reasons and suggest alternative working arrangements. For example, if an employee requests to work at home for four days a week, the employer might suggest two days or consolidating their hours into fewer days.

However, that government has also indicated that they will respect “freedom to contract” so it will be interesting to find out more about how this would operate in practice.

Further proposals

The consultation is examining a number of other flexible working ideas including job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised, and staggered hours, with emphasis on helping employees achieve a healthy work and home life balance. One of the proposals is to introduce a day one right to one week’s unpaid leave for carers balancing a job with caring responsibilities. The objective of these proposals is to help those with childcare commitments or other unpaid carer commitments, and in particular new parents, carers or disabled people.

The proposals deliver on a manifesto promise and the government believes that more flexibility will result in greater productivity and reduce staff turnover.

The consultation will close on the 1st December 2021 and although nothing is set in stone as yet, we’d love to know your thoughts on this.

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