Government one step closer to making flexible working “the default”

Making the statutory flexible working regime still more flexible has long been on the Government’s agenda. Recently an important milestone was reached when the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act was added to the statute book.

The Act – which is not yet in force – will make a number of relatively modest changes to the current regime, the most significant of which is to increase the number of requests an employee can make from one to two a year. Another key change in the pipeline – removing the 26-week qualifying period which an employee must serve before they can make a request – will require separate regulations.

The Government currently plans to bring the Act and associated regulations into force in about a year’s time. It has also launched a call for evidence to help understand what employers have been doing outside the statutory framework to make working conditions more flexible. For example, many employers are happy to agree to some flexibilities informally without relying on the statutory framework. Others have formal flexible working policies that are more favourable to their staff than the statutory regime.

Some have criticised the Act for not going far enough, but it seems clear that there's a limit to how much additional regulation the Government is willing to impose on employers. That said, it's likely to want to encourage best practice which would enhance the minimum requirements of the statutory regime. With the labour market remaining so tight, employers are unlikely to need much encouragement to improve their flexibility offering, if this would help them boost recruitment and retention.

More details of the changes on the way can be found on our blog posting here.


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