Flexible Working from Day One

The UK Government has announced, that millions of workers will be able to request flexible working from day one of employment. At present, employees must wait until they’ve been in a job for six months (26 weeks) before they can make a flexible working request. The news will allow millions of people to enjoy the benefits of flexible working from the start of their employment.

Key takeaways

The UK Government’s response to consultation has committed to:

  • Removing the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right.
  • Requirement of employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
  • Requirement of employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three.
  • Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.

CIPD Campaign – ‘Flex from 1st

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) campaigned for flexible working from day one of work – ‘Flexfrom1st’. The campaign stemmed from research revealing that flexible working practices were not fair, with nearly half (46%) of British employees saying they didn’t have access to flexible working arrangements as part of their current role. The pandemic saw huge increases in home working, however the CIPD campaigned to highlight the range of different flexible working forms available to people. Flexibility in hours worked and schedules are important, particularly for roles that don’t allow for remote working. Job shares, flexitime and compressed working hours are just some of the other examples that can bring employees more satisfied working lives.

Many organisations in Britain already allow employees to make flexible working requests from the start of their employment but this change in policy will ensure that this good practice is adopted across the economy.

Evidence suggests that those who have greater flexibility report higher levels of job satisfaction, wellbeing and performance in their roles. The provision of more flexible jobs and workplaces will also help organisations attract and retain a more diverse workforce, boosting their ability to address skill and labour shortages.

In September, the CIPD responded to the UK Government’s flexible working consultation. To help inform the response, evidence was cited from seven member focus groups across the UK along with data from a YouGov survey of over 1,000 senior HR and organisation decision makers. The data found that 57% were in favour of the day-one right to request and overall the CIPD responded positively to the consultation, providing key recommendations to help create fairer more inclusive flexible working practices.

Enactment

The consultation paper notes that primary legislation is required, but does not include any draft legislation or set out a timetable.  However, the government has also said it will support this existing Private Members’ Bill, so it looks like the change allowing employees to make two requests within 12 months, and for the decision time to be reduced to 2 months, will happen sooner rather than later.

The changes announced, once enacted, will apply to employees in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), as employment law is devolved in Northern Ireland.

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