What you need to know about the Flexible Working Bill
The new Flexible Working Bill was introduced to parliament in June 2021. A new consultation has been published on proposals to extend the existing right to request flexible working from ‘day one’ of employment. The consultation is seeking views on how to make flexible working the ‘default position’, which was a manifesto commitment by the government in 2019.
Employers should make sure they are prepared to manage requests in line with the time requirements and have the resources available to achieve this. This might involve training managers and reviewing current contracts and policies.
Whilst employers are obliged to deal with flexible working requests in a reasonable and timely manner, they can still refuse to grant the request as long as the refusal is for one or more of the following reasons:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
- inability to recruit additional staff;
- detrimental impact on quality;
- detrimental impact on performance;
- insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or
- planned structural changes.
What does flexible working look like?
Whether fully remote, remote with occasional office attendance or primarily office based with occasional remote working, hybrid offers lets of flexibility.
This is where either the number of hours are reduced or structured differently so they operate over fewer days or across the working day outside the traditional 9-5 core hours.
Fitting a 40-hour week into fewer days, usually four instead of the regular five
Offering autonomy to the employee over their work hours around a framework of core-hours defined by the organisation. Meeting the needs of the business, and the employee.
Hiring two people to share a single role
What do you need to do?
If there is nothing already in place, employers should consider introducing a policy for handling requests to work flexibly.
To help achieve buy-in across the organisation, and to ensure that it works to the benefit of both employees and the organisation as a whole, any policy should be developed in consultation with employees and their representatives, including trade unions where they are recognised.
Issues that such a policy should cover include:
- How employees should make the application, including who the application should be made to and what should be covered in the application.
- A statement to the effect that the employer will consider the request and will only reject it for one of the eight business reasons as listed above.
- Who can accompany the employee at any meeting regarding the request.
- What arrangements there are for appeals.
- The time limits on dealing with requests.
A right to request policy can be a stand-alone policy or it can be included within a wider equality or flexible working policy. Some employers may decide not to have a written policy however they should ensure their employees know how to apply and must still abide by the law.
I can help
If you are thinking about introducing flexible working opportunities into your organisation, I can review, update or draft policies and handbooks to help to clearly communicate information on the right to request in a transparent manner to all employees and ensure consistency in handling requests.