Government reveals plans to make flexible working the “default”

The Government has responded to last year’s consultation about widening the scope of flexible working rights. As it points out, it is a right to request, not a right to “have”. However, the changes it plans, if adopted, are likely to result in a considerable expansion of the number of people able to work flexibly.

The key changes proposed are as follows:

  • The right to request will become a day one right for employees, rather than limited to those with at least 26 weeks’ service
  • Employees will be able to make up to two requests a year (up from a single annual request)
  • The maximum response time will be cut from three to two months
  • Employers will have to consult with the employee before refusing any request
  • The requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by the employer will be removed

However, there are no plans to change the reasons employers can cite to justify refusing a request.

It is unclear when these changes will become law. The qualifying period can be removed by secondary legislation, but primary legislation will be required for the other changes. Whether by luck or judgment, a Private Member’s Bill which would implement the other changes is currently before Parliament. It will now receive Government backing.

The consultation response states that an estimated additional 2.2 million employees will be eligible to request flexible working if the proposals become law. Perhaps even more critically, making it a day one right means that employers will have an added incentive to think about how they design jobs at the recruitment stage. The Government hopes that this will be help attract staff back into the workplace who are not currently economically active, a particularly important consideration in a tight labour market.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

Posted by


Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.