As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, employers across the country have had to adapt to some degree of flexible working where possible. Thanks to the better work-life balance it offers their employees, it isn’t really a surprise to see many workplaces considering establishing a mix of in-office and home working as a more permanent arrangement. It has proven so popular, the UK Government has launched a consultation to reform working regulations to incorporate more flexibility within work and working hours.
The consultation is, in part, a response to 2019s ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families consultation’ report, and accordingly contains ideas to reform to flexible working regulations. In short, the proposal allows an employee to request flexible working from their first day of work – this particular regulation was last extended in 2014 to include all employees who had 26 weeks’ of continuous service.
Here, we’re going to outline the new proposal in full, what it means for both employers and employees – and where to find the right employment advice if required.
What are the new flexible working proposals?
The consultation outlines five proposals, which will consider:
- Making the right to request flexible working from day one of employment.
- Whether the ‘Eight business reasons’ for a workplace refusing a flexible working request all remain valid.
- The administrative process that underpins the right to request flexible work.
- Requirements for the employer to suggest alternative arrangements where possible.
- Requests for a temporary arrangement.
As mentioned already – perhaps the most significant proposal is the potential for employees to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. At present, employees can only gain this right after 26 weeks – this means that employers will need to consider whether they can offer flexible working arrangements before advertising positions.
This won’t be as simple as assessing whether a role can be done from home – there are many other options that offer varying degrees of flexibility. Types of flexible work include (but is not limited to):
- Job sharing: Two people do one job and split the hours.
- Part-time: Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
- Compressed hours: Working full-time hours but over fewer days (i.e. 36 hours over four days, rather than the typical five)
- Flexitime: The employee chooses when to start and end work (within an agreed limit), but still commits to working certain ‘core hours’ during the day (i.e. 10am to 4pm each day).
- Annualised hours: The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but has some flexibility about when they work.
- Staggered hours: The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
- Working from home: Doing some or all work from home or anywhere else that isn’t the ‘normal’ place of work.
- Phased retirement: Older employees can choose when they want to retire, allowing them to reduce their hours and work part-time.
It’s important to note that the proposal is centred around the right to request flexible working, not a ‘right to have’. Therefore, requests can still be rejected – however, rejections could lead to potential liability under the relevant flexible working legislation, as well as discrimination legislation. The consultation therefore can be interpreted as a way to clarify the flexible working process – making it easier for workers and their employers to come to an agreement on the best way to create a work environment that will be of mutual benefit.
If, as an employee, you feel that you need some advice on how best to proceed with a dispute following a flexible working rejection, or you’re an employer seeking a way to implement this new way of working into your business, the expert team here at Rowberrys are here to help.
Leading Employment Solicitors In Berkshire
At Rowberrys Solicitors, we are experienced employment lawyers who work with employers and employees on legal matters that arise in the workplace. Our Employment Team has expertise in all legal matters in the workplace – representing both businesses and individuals in solving disputes and drawing up contracts. We will work closely with you to understand your requirements and we will endeavour to explain all aspects of the legal process clearly, with our advice specifically tailored to suit your situation.
Please feel free to browse our website to learn more about our specialist services – our Settlement Agreement service is a great example of how we work with all parties to achieve the ideal employment solution.
If you would like to learn more about how the flexible working consultation may affect you – or you simply need some employment law advice – we are here to help. Why not give us a call today on 01344 775 311.