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Millions of workers to be able to request flexible working on day one of employment

New government plans to make flexible working the default have been unveiled today giving workers a greater say over when, where, and how they work. The Government introduced the raft of changes in response to the consultation; Making Flexible Working The Default.

Flexible working won’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

The measures the government is committing to in full will:

  • remove the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right
  • require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request
  • allow employees to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period
  • require employers to respond to requests within 2 months, down from 3
  • remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer
  • The day one right to request flexible working will be delivered through secondary legislation.

Minister for Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said:

“Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”

Today’s announcement comes alongside new laws coming into effect that will allow Britain’s lowest paid workers to work more flexibly and boost their income through extra work. Workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week will now be protected from exclusivity clauses being enforced against them, which restricted them from working for multiple employers.

These reforms will ensure around 1.5 million low paid workers can make the most of the opportunities available to them such as working multiple short-term contracts. This will particularly benefit those who need more flexibility over where and when they work, for example students or people with caring responsibilities.

Chris Sanderson, CEO of the hospitality recruitment app, Limber welcomed the move: “These laws are good news for working people. Unlike other announcements, such as trials on the 4-day week, this one goes some way to improving work for low paid shift workers on the front line. For shift-working industries, though, these proposed laws pose a massive challenge.

“When scheduling your staff, the rota only fits one way, and constant claims for flexible working, now backed up by this proposed legislation, will put yet more strain on staffing in those industries. For us as a platform, we welcome the banning of draconian exclusivity clauses. It will mean more access to more income streams for more people, which will be crucial during a recession.” 

However, Sam Alsop-Hall, Chief Strategy Officer at Birmingham-based healthcare and NHS recruiter, Woodrow Mercer Healthcare said: “This is a nightmare for commercial landlords, a nightmare for the hospitality sector, and a nightmare for employers trying to upskill entry-level employees. It’s not the Government’s place to get involved here. Let the job market decide the balance of flexible and hybrid working based on the needs of businesses in different sectors. This will have major unintended consequences for years to come.”

The full government response to the consultation on exclusivity clauses is on GOV.UK

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