Millions of workers will be able to request flexible working on day one of employment under new rules under new government plans to make flexible working the default
Currently employees can only request flexible working after completing 26 weeks of service. This will be removed so that employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of employment.
Employers will have to respond to requests within two months, down from three months currently.
Flexible working covers working from home and in the office, job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
The day one right to request flexible working will be delivered through secondary legislation in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill.
The raft of new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, improving work life balance.
‘By removing some of the invisible restrictions to jobs, flexible working creates a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns,’ the government said.
If an employer cannot accommodate a request to work flexibly, they will be required to discuss alternative options before they can reject the request. For example, if it is not possible to change an employee’s working hours on all days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.
The new legislation, backed in the government’s response to the Making flexible working the default consultation, will also remove the requirement for employees to set out the effects of their flexible working requests to employers, removing a large administrative burden for both sides.
Minister for small business Kevin Hollinrake said: ‘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.’
The government has also outlawed exclusivity clauses for low paid workers, earning a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week. This removes rules restricting them from working for multiple employers and will affect around 1.5 million low paid workers.
While not everyone will want a second job, the laws on exclusivity clauses remove unnecessary red tape that prevents those who do – for example, gig economy workers, younger people, or carers who cannot commit to a full-time role.