The Government has confirmed how it will reform the 'right to request flexible working' regime, following its consultation in 2021. The headline change, to make the right to request flexible working available from the first day of employment, signals an intent to encourage employers and employees to have early conversations about flexibility in working arrangements. In addition to making the required legislative changes, the Government will introduce new guidance and raise awareness about the right to request.
Summary of changes to flexible working request regime
The Government will:
- make the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment, rather than after 6 months' service;
- require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request;
- allow employees to make two flexible working requests (rather than just one) in any 12-month period;
- require employers to respond to requests within two months (rather than three months at present);
- remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by the employer; and
- develop enhanced guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working.
The precise timing of these reforms is not yet clear. Making the right to request a day one right will be implemented through secondary legislation, which the Government will introduce 'when parliamentary time allows'. Other changes, such as doubling the number of requests to two in a 12-month period and reducing the employer's response time from three to two months, require primary legislation. The Government will implement this via the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, a Private Member's Bill that is currently going through parliament with Government backing.
If you would like more information on how best to manage flexible working issues in your business, please get in touch with your usual Mishcon de Reya contact or with a member of the Employment team.