Employees can request flexible working on day one of new job

The UK government now permits employees to request flexible working on their first day of employment to boost inclusivity and productivity

The UK government will grant employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from the first day of their new job. Employees will therefore no longer have to wait 26 weeks which is currently stated by law. 

The new legislation will give millions of UK employees the right to request flexible working, empowering workers to have a greater say over when, where, and how they work.

The government states that flexible working is an all-encompassing term, spanning flexitime, staggered hours and job shares and is therefore not just limited to working from home. 

If employers are unable to meet employees' flexible working requests, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said they should discuss alternative options before rejecting it. 

Currently, employees are only allowed to make one flexible working request within a 12-month period which the employer needs to respond to within three months. The next plan will improve this for employees, allowing them to make two requests per annum, each with a response time of two months. 

Employees will no longer be required to comment on how their employer handled their flexible working request.

Boosting inclusivity for all

Although employers permitting flexible working has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic – with 37% of employees working remotely in 2020 – the government is being urged to do more to promote flexibility.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC explains that the government needs to “go much further” to ensure flexible working “becomes the norm.” She also states that increased flexibility has kept “mums in work” while helping to the gender pay gap.

Frances explains that employees should be given the legal right to flexible work, rather than just the right to ask, and the job adverts should clarify the lengths of flexible working for each role. 

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, says: "This new right will help normalise conversations about flexibility at the start of the employment relationship, with significant benefits for employees in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance."

"[The plans will] improve access to flexible jobs for many people. Older workers, those with caring responsibilities and people with health conditions are among those who will particularly benefit.

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