The UK government has laid out plans to give employees the right to request flexible working, regardless of their status or time served in a company, in plans to modernise working practices.
Around 2.2 million more people will now get the right to request flexible working.
The consultation was first laid out in the government's 2019 manifesto — a document written before COVID-19 forced widespread working from home.
"It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country," said business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
The proposals consider whether limiting an employee’s application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs. The consultation also looks at cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request
If an employer cannot accommodate a request, as can be the case, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer — for example, if they couldn’t change their employee’s hours on all working days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.
The consultation looks at a range of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement — not just working from home.
It allows employees to balance their work and home life, including helping people who are managing childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities as well as ensuring that people who are under-represented in Britain’s workforce, such as new parents or disabled people, have access to more opportunities.
Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover — boosting their business’s productivity and competitiveness.