Flexibility From Day One
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Laura Spence
Following unprecedented times during the pandemic, there has been a substantial increase of flexible working posts. For many, who simply need a mobile and a laptop, flexible working arrangements such as hybrid working has become the norm. It, therefore, may be unsurprising that the Government have announced that all employees will have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment.
Previously, if workers wished to make such a request, they would have to wait until they had accrued 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer, and then complete an application form which needed to set out the reasons for their request and consider any impact on the business. Following this lengthy wait, employers then had another 3 months to come back with the decision. To support new starters who find themselves needing more flexible working arrangements, workers will now be able to make such a request from day 1 of their engagement. The need to set out reasons in the application has been removed and each employee is now entitled to make 2 requests within a 12-month period rather than just 1.
It is important to note that this new right is limited to making a request, it does not extend to the desired outcome being guaranteed. Employers are, however, obliged to at least consider the request and, if it is decided the request is not viable, to propose alternative arrangements. A decision must now be provided within 2 months from the request, expediting the process.
The right to request flexible working extends far beyond just working from home. Employees and workers can request the likes of job sharing, part-time hours, flexitime, compressed and annualised work, as well as staggered hours. This announcement comes shortly after the announcement of exclusivity clauses being banned from zero-hour contracts thus making it more feasible for many to secure multiple jobs where flexibility would be particularly useful. The reforms will also benefit workers with academic or training commitments and those with caring responsibilities. The flexibility will not only make seeing to personal circumstances easier, but also allow many people to increase their earning potential by capitalising on the opportunity to secure multiple employment contracts.
Although the benefits of flexibility are clear for many workers, there may be circumstances where the employer does not wish to approve a request. For example, those with less experience often thrive in a supportive team environment which may be more difficult to maintain if they, or too many others, work different hours or from different locations on a more frequent basis. While flexibility can be a powerfully useful tool, employers may wish to consider the structure, support, and morale when making decisions on flexibility. If the employer wishes to reject a request, this must be for one of the 8 prescribed statutory reasons including, for example, that it would create additional costs, have a detrimental effect on customer demand, or impact quality or performance.
For further information on this new day 1 right or for assistance on considering, approving, compromising, and rejecting requests for flexible working, please contact a member of the Employment team and we would be happy to assist.