The government has published a consultation paper setting out proposals to give employees the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

The range of flexible working methods being considered include working from home (which increased significantly during the pandemic), job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours as well as phased retirement.

The paper asks, among other things, whether limiting an employee to one application for flexible working per year is a good balance between their needs and those of the employer. The consultation also looks at cutting the three-month period that employers currently have in which to decide whether they can accommodate the request.

If it turns out that an employer cannot accommodate a request, the consultation paper suggests that they would have to think about alternatives – for example, if they could not change their employee’s hours on all working days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.

Criticising the proposals as “tinkering around the edges”, the TUC is instead calling for:

  • A legal duty on employers to consider which flexible working arrangements are available in a role and to publish these in job advertisements, with the new postholder having a day one right to take up the flexible arrangements as advertised.
  • A requirement to set out the “exceptional circumstances” that apply if an employer does not think it is possible to offer any flexible working arrangements.
  • A day one right to request flexible working for all workers, with the criteria for rejection mirroring the same “exceptional circumstances”.
  • Workers to have a right to appeal a refusal.
  • The abolition of the restriction on the number of flexible working requests an employee can make in a year (currently one).

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.

To access the document, click here.