The government has published its response to its 2021 consultation on making flexible working the default, and this confirms its intention to introduce changes to the statutory flexible working regime. The response states that the government will take forward the following measures:

  • make the statutory right to request flexible working a day one right (by removing the current 26-week qualifying service requirement) – it will still only be a right to request flexible working, not a right to have it
  • introduce a new requirement for employers to consult with the employee, as a means of exploring the available options, when they intend to reject their flexible working request
  • allow two flexible working requests to be made by an employee in any 12-month period (rather than the current one)
  • require that the employer must respond to a flexible working request within a decision period of two months (rather than the current three months)
  • remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain in their flexible working request what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.

The eight statutory business grounds for refusal of a flexible working request will remain unchanged.

The response also commits to:

  • developing guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working
  • launching a call for evidence to better understand how informal flexible working operates in practice.

It seems likely that these changes to flexible working laws will take effect through a Private Members’ Bill, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which has government support and is currently progressing through Parliament. Making the right to request flexible working a day one right will be delivered through secondary legislation. 

Source: New feed