Government launches consultation on making flexible working “the default”

Yesterday’s consultation on flexible working explores five ways current legislation could be changed to support “genuine two sided flexibility”. It also sets out the Government’s other plans for making flexible working “part of the workplace DNA”.

Exploring ways to change current legislation

The consultation addresses five elements of the current flexible working regime, which dates from 2014:

  • Qualifying period: Should the current qualifying period of 26 weeks be removed so that it becomes a day one right?
  • Reasons for saying no: Do the eight business reasons for refusing a request need to be amended in the light of recent experience?
  • Suggesting alternatives: Should employers be required to suggest alternatives, if minded to refuse the original request?
  • Administration: Do the administrative requirements, including the three month time limit for responding, need to be changed?
  • Temporary arrangements: Should the legal framework do more to facilitate time-limited requests?

The consultation closes on 1 December.

Other measures to encourage flexible working

As well as reviewing the current legal framework, the Government will be asking the Flexible Working Taskforce to explore the lessons to be drawn (good and bad) from changes to working arrangements that have emerged over the past 18 months in response to the pandemic.

It will also launch a separate call for evidence “in due course” about how to secure a “genuinely flexible working friendly culture across and within organisations”.  However it does not propose to make it compulsory for larger employers to publish details of their flexible working arrangements, an idea that was explored in the 2019 Good Work Plan.

What else is in the pipeline?

The Government has also recently published its response to last year’s consultation about introducing a new right for a week’s unpaid leave for carers of adult dependents with long-term care needs.  This will be introduced “when Parliamentary time allows” and will sit alongside the existing right to take unpaid leave to deal with emergencies involving dependants.

The Government confirms in the introduction to this response that it remains committed to bringing forward legislation for neo-natal leave and pay and to extend redundancy protection for new mothers.

Finally, the Government has published today its response to consultation about tipping and service charges.  It confirms that it will legislate to will make it illegal for employers to withhold tips from workers.  These measures will be included in the long-promised Employment Bill, which will be brought forward “when Parliamentary time allows”.

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