Yesterday, the government published its response to last year’s consultation “Making flexible working the default”. The consultation focuses on a review of the current law on flexible working, as set out in the Flexible Working Regulations 2014.
The Government’s response, in summary, is as follows:-
- The right to request flexible working will be available to all employees from the outset of the employment relationship. This essentially means it will be a “Day One” right, as opposed to the employee having to be employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks prior to acquiring the right to make such a request.
- Employees will be allowed to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period. The current legal position is that employees are only permitted to make one such request in a 12 month period.
- Employers will now be required to respond to requests for flexible working within two months. Currently, the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 allow employers 3 months to respond.
- Employers will be under a duty to consult with the employee and discuss alternatives to their request. Currently, there is no legal obligation to consult with an employee in respect of a flexible working request.
- Employees will no longer be required to set out in their request how their flexible working request might impact the business of the employer.
There will, however, be no change to the eight grounds on which an employer may decline a request (e.g. detrimental impact on quality or performance, inability to recruit additional staff or reorganise work amongst existing staff).
The consultation paper states that primary legislation will be required, but there is no indication as to the times scales involved.
Whilst this law is yet to be implemented and we do not yet have any information as to when these changes will become legally binding on employers, flexible working can be a tricky area and it is important that employers do not find themselves facing a discrimination claim following rejection of a flexible working request.
If you require any advice on flexible working or any other aspect of employment law, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Glaisyers Employment Team.