UK staff ‘to be able to request flexible working from day one of a new job’

·2 min read
A woman using a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office (PA) (PA Wire)
A woman using a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office (PA) (PA Wire)

Employees should be able to request flexible working from when they start a new job, the government will reportedly propose this week in a major new consultation exploring the future of working post-pandemic.

Additionally, companies will be obliged to explain reasons if they refuse a request - and suggest other workable options.

The plan will mean companies would also need to respond more quickly to any flexible working requests.

The ideas are set to be revealed on Thursday in a new consultation document which is being billed as a major reshaping of the working post-pandemic world. The project is being overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) and is part of a wider programme - the Good Work Plan - which started in 2019.

The document is yet to be released but, according to the Guardian, flexible working is a key part of it.

Options such as working fewer or different hours, or working more hours on fewer days, working from home and job shares are said to be discussed.

Employees will be able to request flexible working from the outset, rather than after six months as is set now, it is reported.

Employers will have to reply within three months of the request and explain why they are being refused if they are and offer and alternative.

But Unions are already warning the ideas do not go far enough.

Sue Coe, the TUC’s senior equalities policy officer, said in the seven years between 2013 and 2020, the number of Birtons taking advantage offlexible working only rose from 26 per cent to 30.

“If you look at that, does it say to you this is a policy that’s working but needs a little bit of fine-tuning to make it work?” she said.

Covid had shown that working from home was productive for most people. “Of course, you can’t work from home if, say, you’re a train driver,” Coe said. “But what the pandemic has shown us is that flexible working is eminently achievable. What we need is the ambition to make default flexible working a reality rather than this limited fiddling around the edges of a policy that we have already seen has failed.”

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