In my blog post last week, I wrote that we were expecting the Government to confirm the highly anticipated legislative reforms in relation to flexible working. However, no such confirmations were forthcoming! Instead, the Government published a consultation document called 'Making flexible working the default' on 23 September 2021, which only sets out proposals of some legislative reforms.

This consultation does still propose to introduce a day one right to request working from home, as opposed to the six months qualifying service that currently applies.

It is important to note that the Government is not proposing to introduce an automatic right for employees to work flexibly. The proposals are focused on broadening the scope of the right, whilst encouraging a system where decisions are made following a conversation with an employer and employee and a consideration of the employee’s individual needs.

Other proposed legislative reforms set out in the consultation include:

  • Updating the eight business reasons for refusing a request to work flexibly.
    • Currently, there are statutory grounds where an employer can refuse an employee’s right to flexible working, so the Government seeks to consider whether these grounds need to be updated.
  • Requirement for an employer to suggest alternatives where possible.
    • The Government are considering whether it should be necessary for an employer to show that they have considered alternative working arrangements when rejecting an employee’s request for flexible working.
  • Changes to the administrative process underpinning the right.
    • The Government are considering whether allowing employees to make more than one statutory request for flexible working per year, would enable the current system to be more considerate of an employee’s ever-changing personal circumstances.
    • The consultation also considers whether the three-month deadline for responding to flexible working requests is still appropriate in today’s climate.
  • How to encourage requesting a temporary arrangement.
    • The Government are seeking views on what would encourage employees to use their existing right to agree with their employer, a temporary working arrangement.

The consultation will remain open until 1 December 2021 but in the meantime, if you would value a conversation about flexible working or 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.    

For further details on the consultation, please click here.