Government plans for flexible working from day one

The UK government has announced plans to allow every worker in Great Britain the right to request flexible working from the first day of their job.

The proposals, which were originally set out in the government’s 2019 manifesto, will consider whether limiting flexible working applications to one per year continues to represent a suitable balance between staff and business needs. It will also decide whether to cut the current three-month period in which an employer has to consider any requests.

Government plans additionally state that organisations will need to think about alternative offerings if they cannot accommodate a request, for example changing working hours on certain days for employees if it is not practical to do so every day.

The consultation examines a variety of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, flexi-time, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement and working from home. It notes that these allow employees to balance their work and home life, help some to manage childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities as well as offering more access to opportunities for under-represented staff, such as new parents or disabled people.

According to the government, businesses will still be able to reject a flexible working request if they have a good enough reason for doing so and will also allow freedom of contract, rather than specific legislation arrangements being required.

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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented that a more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants, and better retention rates help to make the case for flexible working “compelling”.

“It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country. The proposed changes would also mean that all applicants will know they can ask for flexible working before applying for a job. Equally, employers will need to consider whether they can offer flexible working before advertising,” he said.