The government’s announcement earlier this week that it is committed to introducing a day one right to request flexible working has been welcomed by many, not least those that have campaigned for such a move in recent years.
In its response to the consultation Making flexible working the default, the government confirmed that it would take forward a number of changes to current legislation, including:
- Making the right to request flexible working a day one right.
- Introducing a new requirement for employers to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request.
- Increasing the number of statutory requests an employee can make in a 12-month period from one to two.
- Reducing the decision period for a flexible working request from three months to two.
- Removing the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, they change they have applied for would have on the employer and how that change may be dealt with.
This change is something that a number of organisations and high profile public figures, including Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka), Pregnant Then Screwed, The Fawcett Society, Working Families UK and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), to name but a few, have campaigned for over a number of years.
Should these measures ultimately be brought into law, such flexibility could open up employment to a much wider number within specific demographic groups, such as parents, carers and women. Employers will, therefore, benefit from a much wider recruitment pool, which could be hugely valuable, particularly in industries currently experiencing a shortage of talent.
This is highlighted in the results of polling carried out by Working Families in association with YouGov, which found that among UK parents, flexibility is second only to pay in terms of priorities when looking for a new job. Among UK mothers, meanwhile, pay and flexibility tied as top priority.
In addition, 82% of the parents polled said they would be likely to apply for a role that lists flexible-working options. In contrast, just 31% said they would be likely to apply for a role that does not do so.
Given the shift in working arrangements and patterns we have seen in many industries and organisations since the pandemic, formalising arrangements to give employees the flexibility to which many have become accustomed seems like a logical step.
Although this is focused on extending the right to request flexible working, rather than entitlement to flexible working itself, this certainly feels like a significant move forward in opening up work for many.