Tomorrow, it is anticipated that the Government is set to confirm reforms enabling employees to request the right to work from home from their first day on the job. The right will be available to all employees but the move is particularly aimed at empowering women, disabled people, parents and carers to balance their professional lives with personal commitments.
The reforms have been on the horizon since before the pandemic in 2019 when a proposal to consider whether flexible working should be a default option, unless good reasons not to, was a 2019 Election Conservative manifesto promise reiterated in the 2019 Queen's Speech. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on working habits and arguments for such a proposal made by the TUC in June 2021 in their report on The Future of Flexible Work have hurried along the reforms. For some commentary on this, please see my earlier post Flexible working: A perk for the few not a right for the many?
Currently, employees cannot request a hybrid or flexible working arrangement until they have been employed for six months. When the cross party bill was announced on 30 June 2021, we were informed that the right was to be available from Day 1 except in exceptional circumstances. We wait for confirmation on what those exceptional circumstances are and for details on the obligations that will be placed on employers in terms of what must be offered in recruitment adverts and set out in employment contracts. It remains to be seen to what extent the new reforms will reduce the risk of a class and geographical divide being created between the flexible working haves and have nots.
With a return to the office in some format gradually being introduced, many employers are in the process of adopting and implementing a new hybrid working model comprising a mixture of roam, home and/or hub and so we envisage that the new legislation will complement that new working model.
If you would value a conversation about implementing or drafting your hybrid or agile working policy, feel free to contact me. We will be covering flexible and/or hybrid working arrangements as a key topic along with other pressing issues left by the pandemic during our virtual annual employment law update on Tuesday 19 October. If you would like to sign up please do so here.
Employees will be able to request the right to work at home from their first day on the job under reforms to be announced this week.