Employment law: How to prepare for updates to flexible working

Whilst the proposals are quite drastic, it’s important to note that they are still in their infancy and the changes are not actually in force yet.

Danielle Ayres | Employment Partner

It’s clear that the pandemic brought about a lasting shift in attitudes to flexible working and work-life balance with more and more employees now expecting and seeking more flexible working patterns.

Flexible working comes in many forms, and it is important to remember that it doesn’t just mean working from home.  There are different ways of working flexibly such as working less hours, compressed hours, phased retirement and job-sharing.

News has been circulating this week around updates to flexible working laws, following a consultation which took place last year.  Whilst the proposals are quite drastic in what might be to come in terms of employee rights, it’s important to note that this is still in it’s infancy and the changes are not actually in force yet.

If the changes do happen, employers will need to prepare for:

  • Employees having the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment. At the moment, it’s only available to employees with 26 weeks’ of continuous employment
  • Employees being allowed to make two requests (previously one) within a 12 month period
  • The time for employers to respond to any such request being reduced from 3 months to 2 months
  • A brand new duty imposed on employers to discuss whether there are alternative flexible working options, if they plan to reject the request

While flexible working remains an attractive perk for many employees, the Government has emphasised that these changes only impact when an employee can request a flexible working pattern and that employers still have the right to reject such requests, with the list of 8 reasons that employers can use to refuse requests remaining unchanged.

With more and more employers looking to do their bit when it comes to employee wellbeing and work-life balance, these new changes will assist in conversations taking place at a much earlier stage in the employment relationship, with both parties then knowing where they stand – rather than employees waiting and making such requests six months down the line.

For more information, please contact me directly on danielle.ayres@primaslaw.co.uk.

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