Half of UK workers would consider using “day one” flexible working rights

Timewise research shows a strong appetite for the government’s proposed law, which is expected to take effect next year.

Office desk with note saying "flexible working"


Half of UK workers would consider requesting flexible working on “day one” of a new job, research shows, with legal rights around this issue expected to come into force next year.

The survey by Timewise, a social enterprise that advises companies on flexible working, found that 49% of workers would consider making a “day one” request. More than a quarter of workers (29%) were already aware of the proposed law, albeit with varying levels of knowledge as to its exact details. A smaller snap poll by workingmums.co.uk shows similar levels of interest in the new legislation. 

The government has proposed legislation that will give employees the right to request flexible working from “day one”, instead of the current rules whereby they must be in a role for at least six months. Ministers hope the new law, which is making its way through parliament, will take effect at some point next year.

Flexible working – a category that includes remote working, part-time roles, and compressed hours – has long been seen as an issue for parents, particularly mothers. But the Timewise survey underlines how it is becoming a priority for all workers, with many people keen to retain at least some of the flexibility they had during the Covid pandemic. 

While 53% of workers with dependent children or other caring duties said they would consider using the “day one” rights, as and when they come into force, so did 45% of people who were not in this category.

The government is yet to clearly define “day one”, creating an area of uncertainty for both employers and employees. It is not yet known if workers will need to make requests when applying for a role, or when they accept a job offer, or if they will not need to mention anything until their first day on the job. 

‘Employers need to get on the front foot’

Timewise’s research suggests that employers will see a surge in requests when the law takes effect – and that they should start preparing now. Yet almost half (49%) of employers are not even aware of the legislation, according to a CIPD survey published last month. 

“[Our research] suggests that groups of workers are unhappy with their current working arrangements and are highly likely to utilise their newly-gained rights to improve their situation,” Sarah Dauncey, head of partnerships at Timewise, said in a statement.

“Employers need to take heed to get on the front foot, ensuring that all workers have a degree of autonomy and control over their working patterns.”

Under the new law, employers would have to respond to flexible working requests within two months, instead of the current three months. Employees will also no longer have to propose ways for their employer to manage any impacts of their requested working pattern.

The Timewise survey found that the likelihood of using the “day one” rights differed across racial backgrounds. Almost two-thirds (61%) of workers from Black, Asian and mixed-race backgrounds said they would consider making a “day one” request in a new job, versus 48% of White workers. This rose to 71% among Black workers.

Timewise says this suggests that workers from racial minorities are more likely to feel that they cannot speak to their bosses about adjusting their working patterns, without legal rights to support their request.

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