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.
HMRC is urging working tax credit claimants to check if they need to update their working hours if these have reduced as a result of coronavirus as relaxed reporting rules end
During the pandemic, working tax credit customers have not needed to tell HMRC about temporary short-term reductions in their working hours as a result of coronavirus – for example if they were working fewer hours or were furloughed. It is one of several measures HMRC introduced to help those facing uncertainty around their hours.
If a working tax credit employee’s hours temporarily fell because of coronavirus, they have been treated as if they were working their normal hours.
Customers do not need to tell HMRC if they re-establish their normal working hours before 25 November 2021, but from then, they must do within the usual one-month window if they are not back to working their normal hours shown in their working tax credit claim.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘We introduced this measure last year to help support working families. It is vital that working tax credit claimants who have benefitted from it update HMRC with their working hours if they have reduced, and they won’t return to their normal level before 25 November.
‘Anyone who is no longer eligible for working tax credit due to a change in their circumstances may be able to apply for other UK government support, including Universal Credit.’
It is important to inform HMRC about any permanent changes to working circumstances within one month – for example, in the case of redundancy, job loss or permanent changes to hours.
Any changes can be reported online on Gov.uk, where it is possible to check current working tax credit claim details.
If there are mistakes on claims, such as overpayment, the recipient must inform HMRC within one money and repay the money, otherwise penalties will be charged.
HMRC is also reminding claimants that Post Office card accounts are closing. From 30 November 2021 HMRC will stop making payments of child benefit, guardians allowance and tax credits into Post Office card accounts.
Child benefit and tax credits customers who use Post Office card accounts to receive their payments will need to notify HMRC of their new bank, building society or credit union account details. HMRC is encouraging customers to act now so they do not miss any payments once their Post Office account closes. They can contact HMRC’s helplines (0345 300 3900 for tax credits or 0300 200 3100 for child benefit) or use their Personal Tax Account.