Flexible working would become ‘default’ position under new plans

THE right to request flexible working will become available from ‘day-one’ of employment, the Government has proposed.
A consultation over potential changes to employment law was launched in September 2021, running until December of that year, to establish whether changes should be made.
It came after a pledge in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto committed to ‘encourage flexible working and consult on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to’.
More than 1,600 responses to the consultation were received and the Government has now issued guidance on which proposals it will take forward.
On making the right to request flexible working the ‘default’ position, the report said: “On the balance of the evidence provided … the Government believes that making the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment is a proportionate step to take.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to work arrangements and it is important that the legislation remains a right to request, not a right to have.
“The Government believes that early conversations about flexibility in the job design, recruitment and appointment phases should be encouraged – and this measure will directly support that goal.”
In response to the consultation, The Phoenix Group said: “If we give this right to request flexibility from day one, we open up our culture at all entry points and can stimulate a change in the way we think about working hours as a whole.”
The consultation also asked for views on whether reasons to reject a request for flexible working should be altered, but based on feedback, it decided against recommending that.
“While an overall majority of consultation responses supported a reduction in the list of business grounds for rejecting a flexible working request, no clear picture emerged of an obvious way forward,” it said.
“There was a clear difference between the views of individuals and employers, with concern expressed in relation to how the reasons are used rather than what they specifically state,” it added.
“This in turn supports the need for a conversation between the employer and employee about the reason(s) applicable in any specific case and therefore how flexible working might sensibly and practically be available to an employee, if at all.
“For these reasons, coupled with the strong arguments for maintaining the current position put forward in some consultation responses, the Government will retain the current list of business reasons and not make any changes.”
However, the proposals did include changes that would require employers minded to reject an application to discuss it with employees in a bid to encourage finding a workable compromise.
Lloyds banking Group said: “It is important that the shift to flexible working by default is seen as an improvement in the maturity of conversation between employee and employer, and changes to the regulations are introduced in a way that contributes to this.
“Getting to ‘flexible by default’ for us means that regular conversations take place between colleagues to explore whether the way they are working is delivering the best outcomes for the business, our customers and the individual.”

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