The right to request flexible working was first introduced in April 2003 for parents and certain other carers.  In 2014, the right was extended to all employees with 26 weeks continuous service.

The Covid-19 pandemic made us change the way we work and as a result, far more workers are working from home than ever before.  In April 2020 during the first lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics, 47% of the UK workforce were working from home. As the effects of the lockdown have eased, employers have seen that many employees are unwilling to return to the office on a full-time basis.  This is because they have seen the benefits of a more flexible approach to work and the financial advantages of not commuting. 

Post-Covid economy

The Government firmly believes that a flexible labour market would provide more opportunities for the post Covid-19 economy. But they also recognise that homeworking does not work for every individual and every organisation and want to ensure that other forms of flexibility are covered.  Part of the Government’s plans is how to make flexible working the default from the Right to Request with the possibility of it turning into a “right to have”.  This would involve potentially removing the employer’s ability to refuse the request.  Furthermore, that flexible working should be a right from day one of employments.  But the Government is also keen for this discussion to be between the employee and employer about the best way forward to balance work requirements and specific individual needs.

Consultation

To gather the views of interested parties, the Government has launched a consultation which will run until 1 December 2021.  The consultation sets out five proposals:

  1. Making the Right to Request Flexible Working a day one right; 
  2. If the eight business reasons for refusing a Request all remain valid; 
  3. Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives; 
  4. The administrative process underpinning the Right to Request Flexible Working; and 
  5. Requesting a temporary arrangement. 

Further Details

The consultation applies to England, Wales and Scotland.  The deadline to respond is 1 December 2021.

Enquiries to: 

Matthew Wootton, Labour Markets Directorate, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 

Tel: 0300 068 6604. Email: labourmarketparticipation@beis.gov.uk 

Consultation reference: Making Flexible Working the Default 

Please respond online here: or email as above.

A response form is available on the GOV.UK consultation page:  

When responding, please state whether you are responding as an individual or representing the views of an organisation. 

Your response will be most useful if it is framed in direct response to the questions posed, though further comments and evidence are also welcome.

Further details on the consultation questions and the background to the proposals can be found here:

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