The UK government has committed to introducing secondary legislation entitling employees to the ability to request flexible working from the first day of their employment.
The government outlined plans to remove the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, and allow them to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
Under these terms, flexible working would include remote and home working, as well as job sharing, flexitime, and compressed, staggered or annualised hours.
The planned legislation requires employers to consult with their staff to explore available options before rejecting a flexible working request, and to respond to requests within two months instead of three. It also removes the requirement for staff to set out how the effects of their request might be dealt with by their employer.
Alongside the legislative measures, the government said it will produce guidance around how to make and administer requests for flexible working, in addition to calling for evidence in order to better understand how informal flexibility works in practice.
In addition, the government revised the red tape around exclusivity clauses, such that staff on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income of £123 or below are protected from their enforcement, which previously restricted their ability to work for multiple employers.
Kevin Hollinrake, minister for small businesses, said: “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), added: “We’re delighted the government is bringing in a day-one right to request flexible working. We’ve been calling for this change as it will help create fairer, more inclusive workplaces and improve access to flexible jobs for many people.
“This new right will help normalise conversations about flexibility at the start of the employment relationship, with significant benefits for employees in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance. Just as importantly, it will also enable organisations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce and help boost their productivity and agility.”
Andy Briggs, group chief executive officer of Phoenix Group, said: “Flexibility is often the top attraction people are now looking for in a role, so the government’s commitment to enable greater access to this should open up the benefits it brings for workers, businesses and the economy.”