Millions of employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment, under new government plans to make flexible working the default.
Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
The raft of new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, leading to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.
Alongside the clear benefits to employees, there is also a strong business case for flexible working. By removing some of the invisible restrictions to jobs, flexible working creates a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns.
Yesterday’s announcement comes alongside new laws coming into effect that will allow Britain’s lowest paid workers to work more flexibly and boost their income through extra work.
Following its response to the consultation on making flexible working the default option, the Government will:
- remove the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right;
- require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request;
- allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period;
- require employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three; and
- remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
Workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week will now be protected from exclusivity clauses being enforced against them, which restricted them from working for multiple employers.