Can Employees Really Request Flexible Working from Day One of a New Job?

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At the end of September, the UK government announced its plans to “strengthen day one employment rights and increase productivity of businesses”.

These plans include a proposal to make the right to request flexible working an entitlement from day one in a new job.  According to the government, this will mean around 2.2 million more people will be given the right to request flexible working.

Currently, employees can request flexible working – including working from home, flexitime, and annualised or compressed hours – only after they have been in their role for at least 26 weeks.

Also being considered under the proposal is whether to remove the existing three-month period that employers have to decide the outcome of an employee’s formal flexible working request.  They would still be able to reject the application if there were “sound business reasons” for doing so.

There is a consultation running until December 2021 on the government proposals, which also include unpaid leave provisions for carers who are balancing a job with caring responsibilities.  As such the proposals have not yet passed into legislation, and there may be changes as and when they do.

However, organisations would be wise to review their current flexible working policy and arrangements, and consider what changes may need to be made, ahead of any new legislation.

In particular, employers should be mindful of what flexibility is possible and potentially available within their organisation, and that this is clearly communicated at the recruitment stage. 

They should also review the “sound business reasons” for rejecting a flexible working request, bearing in mind that failing to seriously consider such requests can lead to a costly outcome, and negative publicity.

For further advice and support regarding flexible working in your organisation, please contact our expert team at Viridian HR.

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