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Changes to Flexible Working Requests

Changes to Flexible Working Requests

Changes to Flexible Working Requests

It has been over 2 years since the UK entered its first lockdown—a decision which has changed history and significantly shifted the UK’s labour market. Working from home became the ‘new’ normal, and Zoom became formal. But is this still the case? In a post-lockdown era, around 4.2 million employees’ contracts allow for flexible working hours, and 42% of employees work primarily from home. A recent study found that only 8% of employees plan to return to their place of work permanently. It is apparent from current trends that flexible working is here to stay, and employers should be mindful when faced with a request from an employee for flexible working and how to respond to such requests.

As of December 2022, the UK government has introduced new proposals under its ‘Making flexible working the default’ consultation. What are the main headlines arising out of the new proposals?

1. Right to request flexible working from day one of employment 

Previously, employees were required to work for a minimum period of 26 weeks (qualifying period) before they could request a formal right for flexible working. The new proposals intend to remove the qualifying period and allow employees to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

2. Employers should consult with the employee if they intend to reject the employee’s request 

If an employer intends to reject a flexible working request, then the employer should consult with the employee before doing so. At the consultation, the employer should set out the reasons why they intend to reject the request and, crucially, explore other available options with the employee instead of simply rejecting the request.

3. Two flexible working requests 

Under the new government plans, the number of flexible working requests an employee can submit has increased from 1 to 2 in any 12-month period.

4. Employers’ response time to flexible request 

Employers are now required to respond to requests for flexible working within 2 months, amended from the prior response time of 3 months.

5. Employees are no longer required to explain the effects of their request for flexible working to their employer

Employees no longer bear the burden of suggesting to the employer how the employer may deal with the changes within the workplace if their request is granted.

The proposals advanced by the government within the ‘Making flexible working the default’ consultation report provides employees with a more significant say over when, where, and how they work. Employers should handle any requests, consultations, and questions in a reasonable, organised, and consistent manner.

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If you require support today, please get in touch with our employment lawyers on 0330 175 7608 or email employment@ibblaw.co.uk.