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Flexible working to be a day one right to request – happy or not?

By Victoria Brown

By Victoria Brown

The Government have announced their plan to make flexible working a day one right to request. Here Victoria outlines everything you need to know about the changes.
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The Government have announced their plan to make flexible working a day one right to request.  The HR governing body, the CIPD, are celebrating this as a win from their ‘Flexfrom1st’ campaign, whilst entrepreneur Sir James Dyson, has slammed the plans in the Times as ‘economically illiterate and staggeringly self-defeating’.

Present position

  • At present, employees must wait until they have been in a job for six months (26 weeks) before they can make a flexible working request.
  • All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.
  • Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ but must respond within 3 months.
  • Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include:
  • assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
  • holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
  • offering an appeal process
  • An employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.
  • An employee can only make a flexible working request every 12 months.

What will the change look like

The UK Government has committed to;

  • Removing the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right.
  • Requirement of employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
  • Requirement of employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three.
  • Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
  • The changes announced, once enacted, will apply to employees in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), as employment law is devolved in Northern Ireland.

I personally think this is a positive move and actually what many Organisations already allow/have in place.  I do not wait for one of my team to have worked for me for 6 months before I discuss any flexible working options they may need. 

There appears to be a misconception that this change in legislation is to encourage more people to work from home.  That is not the case, flexible working does not just mean working from home.  There are so many examples of flexible working, some of which as Employers you may already adopt without considering them ‘flexible’.  Here are some examples I come across with my clients; 

  • reducing hours
  • changing start and finish time
  • having flexibility with start and finish time (sometimes known as ‘flexitime’)
  • compressed hours
  • share the job with someone else
  • make the change for a limited time, during school term time for example.

I appreciate that not all industry sectors can offer the same level of flexibility, but if you can, why would you not?  There have been countless studies and evidence suggesting that employees with greater flexibility report higher job satisfaction, wellbeing and performance.  It is also going to provide an organisation with competitive advantage – attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Action to take

Changes may need to be made to Organisation’s flexible working policies and processes

I would ignore the bad press on this and embrace the change.  We have to evolve and adapt to changing ways of working to progress and move forwards. Do you need help re-drafting your Flexible working policy?  Fear not, HPC can help, contact and quote DIB

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