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The Government has proposed new legislation to make the right to request flexible working a day one right.
The Government has committed to allowing the right to request flexible working from day one of employment in its long-awaited response to flexible working consultation.
It says it will make clear that flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office: it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised or staggered hours.
Previously, employees had to be in a job for six months before they could request flexible working, which meant many who did have flexible arrangements felt stuck in the jobs they had, unable to progress.
The new legislation will also remove the requirement for employees to set out the effects of their flexible working requests to employers. The Government says the aim is to encourage both employer and employee to have constructive and open-minded conversations about flexible working and find arrangements that work for each side.
Other changes in the new legislation will require employers to consult with their employees to explore the available options before rejecting a flexible working request; will enable employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period rather than one as is the case now; and will require employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three.
Minister for Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer.
“Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”
In addition, the Government has announced that workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week will be protected from exclusivity clauses being enforced against them so that they can work for multiple employers if they wish to.
The TUC published figures last week showing that women are much more likely than men to be in flexible working arrangements that mean they work less hours and take a salary hit. Its analysis shows women are three times more likely to work part time and nearly four times more likely to work term-time only than men and that men who work flexibly are most likely to be working from home. It would like to see more action on extending flexible working rights and ensuring progression in flexible jobs. It highlighted the length of time the Government has taken to respond to the flexible working consultation. In the interim.
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi drafted the Employment Relations [Flexible Working] Bill to push through a day one right to request flexible working and other changes and the Government says it will support this as a way to get its response on flexible working onto the statute books. Flexible working changes were part of the long-promised Employment Bill which has been stalled for many years. It included rights such as neonatal leave, several of which have since been taken up by individual MPs in Private Members Bill to ensure they get through Parliament.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the new proposed legislation was a ‘small step’ in the right direction, but that the TUC would like to see the Government go further to normalise flexible working. She stated: “Ministers must change the law so that every job advert makes clear what kind of flexible working is available in that role, and they should give workers the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job – not just the right to ask.”