14 March 2023

Flexible working: what’s changing, and how does it affect you?

An image that represents flexible working.

New government plans outline workers’ right to request flexible working from day one of employment.

Recent years have seen the concept of flexible working become a trending topic in the UK. The global pandemic, forcing all non-essential workers indoors, has sparked a conversation about the traditional Monday to Friday, office-based working week.

Flexible working offers employees the opportunity to create a way of working that suits their needs. This could consist of flexible start and finish times, working from home or compressed hours. When done right, flexible working can boost employee productivity, wellbeing and morale and could be the difference to you retaining key staff.

So, what plans are being made by the government to facilitate a more flexible approach to work? And how are they likely to affect your business?


Empowering workers

The Government has announced that soon, workers in the UK will have the right to request flexible work from their employer from the day they start with a company, as opposed to the current 26-week time period. The CIPD outlined the following commitments that have been made by the government:

  • Removing the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right.
  • Requirement of employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
  • Requirement of employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three.
  • Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.


Employer Responsibilities

Once an employer has received a flexible working request, they must respond to it within two months. They must have a discussion with their employees and explore available options instead of outright rejecting a request.

There are seven reasons that an employer can give for rejecting a flexible work request. These include:

  • Extra costs that will damage the business.
  • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff.
  • People cannot be recruited to do the work.
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance.
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand.
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce.

It is important to note that some roles are not suited for flexible working. However, it is worth some thought and conversation. For a business, the rise of flexible working requests should not be a threat, but rather an opportunity. A business that listens to and works collaboratively with its employees is one that will foster employee wellbeing and a company culture of openness and communication.

Hannah Rafferty

Hannah Rafferty

Graduate at MHR

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