The Government has announced a consultation on a proposal to make the right to request flexible working a day one right.
The proposals, which come as the Government announced plans for a day one right to unpaid carer’s leave, also ask for people’s views on whether limiting an employee’s application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs. Another issue under consideration is cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request.
The proposals suggest that, if an employer cannot accommodate a request they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer.
The consultation, which ends on 1st December, looks at a range of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement – not just working from home.
The Government says the proposals “provide a framework to encourage conversations and balance the needs of employees and employers”.
The proposed changes would also mean that all applicants will know they can ask for flexible working before applying for a job. Equally, employers will need to consider whether they can offer flexible working before advertising.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.
“It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.
“A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.”
The Government has also announced that it will give unpaid carers who are balancing a job in addition to caring for a dependant with long-term needs one week’s unpaid leave as a day one right. The leave will be available to take flexibly (from half day blocks to a whole week) and there will not be an extensive administrative process to ensure legitimacy of requests to take Carer’s Leave as the leave is unpaid. It will require a minimum notice period of twice the length of time being taken, plus one day (in line with annual leave notice periods).
Mandy Garner, editor of workingwise.co.uk, said: “We welcome the consultation to make the right to request flexible working a day one right, which will do much to help people who are working flexibly be able to move and progress their careers. However, we know from our candidates that many have been turned down for flexible working under the legislation because it is too vague and weak. For everyone to get the full benefits there must be a more equal negotiation between employer and employee, with flexible working being considered the norm and employers having to explain why a job cannot be done flexibly rather than the other way round.”
The weekend after the opening of the consultation, Labour launched its Green Paper on employment rights, including a new right to flexible working as the default, protections for those with caring responsibilities and a right to switch off.