With many businesses embracing flexible working, the government has confirmed that a Private Members Bill to increase flexible working rights has received support and will be progressing further, meaning big changes on the horizon for flexible working.
Flexible working to become more flexible
Over the past few years, most businesses have embraced a more flexible approach to flexible and hybrid working. Most employers have found that hybrid working has improved productivity amongst employees with 62% of managers consider it boosts motivation*, whilst employees have benefited from a better work life balance, able to work from home or compressed hours.
The government have confirmed that a Private Members Bill to increase flexible working rights has received government support and the proposals will be progressed further.
What’s changing about flexible working?
The amended and new legislation will change a number of aspects of current flexible working rights:
Flexible working to become a day one right
At the moment employees must accrue 26 weeks’ service before they can make a statutory request to work flexibly. This will change, so that it is a right available from day one of employment.
Flexible working consultation
The Acas Code of Practice will set out a a meaningful consultation process that employers must follow, including considering alternatives before it refuses a flexible working request.
Number of flexible working requests per year
Employees can currently online make one flexible working request every 12 months. This will increase to two requests every 12 months.
Timescale to deal with flexible working requests
Employers will need to deal with flexible working requests within 2 months – a reduction from the current 3 months, or a longer period if the parties agree.
Employees will not need to explain the impact of their proposal
Currently when an employee submits a flexible working request, they’re required to include a statement on what impact their proposal will have on the business and how this maybe alleviated. The new plans scrap this requirement completely – instead employers will need to have a two way discussion with their employees to understand the impact of their request.
When are the changes to flexible working coming?
Currently there’s no date of when these changes will come into force so there’s no immediate rush for employers to change their flexible working policies or the way they deal with flexible working requests for now.
Making the right to request flexible working a day one right requires secondary legislation, and government has said this will be addressed when Parliamentary time allows.
The rest of the changes will all require primary legislation, and are captured in the Private Members Bill which is due its third reading on 24 February 2023 so we’ll know the outcome shortly.
*The Equal Parenting Project, University of Birmingham & University of York