On the 5th of December, the UK government announced that employees would be able to request flexible working from day one. This means they can request to work from home, as well as can opt for flexitime, and even staggered or compressed hours. It is quite a change from the current laws which state flexible working requests can only be made if employees have 26 weeks of service. The biggest reason these new measures are being introduced is so that employees can lead more productive lives.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in its statement, has also mentioned that if an employer is unable to provide flexible working, they will have to discuss alternatives. Should there be a situation where no flexible working can be offered and there are no other options, only then can the request be rejected. This is following a consultation on “making flexible working the default”.
Making Flexible Working the Default
The consultation took place earlier in the year, with its latest update released in December. It was proposed that flexible working be made the default unless there is a good reason not to. The proposal covered many points some of which were making flexible working a right from day one and finding alternatives if flexible working was not possible.
The proposal went into detail about how companies like Virgin Money look at flexible working as a good business model and not just a perk. It included survey results from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which highlighted that flexible working was important to employees to ensure work-life balance.
In response to the consultation, BEIS has agreed to make flexible working a right from day one. They have also decided to move forward with a few more measures, one of which includes a new requirement where employees will have to be consulted before their request is rejected.
In addition, BEIS has pointed out that this new rule of making flexible working the default will have to be adjusted based on employer and sector. Since employees in different sectors will benefit in different ways, it will help to keep lines of communication open with employers to see what works best.
To make it more inclusive, BEIS has claimed that workers on contracts will be protected from exclusivity clauses. This will allow them to utilise the flexible working rules and work for multiple employers if they wish to.
This proves to be a big win for employees and union members as it puts employees’ health and well-being at the forefront. Moreover, new hires can freely ask for a flexible working structure when they start work or even at the interview stages without worrying about the effect it will have on their application.