The government has announced that British workers will get more choice over when and where they work, under new proposals to make the right to request flexible working a day one entitlement. If an employer cannot accommodate a request, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer – for example, if they couldn’t change their employee’s hours on all working days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.
A consultation has been issued to consider the issues arising from making flexible working the default, which is central to the government’s aspiration to “build back better”.
The consultation is clear that businesses should still be able to reject a request if they have sound reasons for doing so, however it should be borne in mind that such decisions could be indirectly discriminatory depending on the specific circumstances.
The new right to request flexibility would only be applicable to employees, meaning that agency workers and temporary workers would not be entitled to do so. However, it is quite likely that such workers might request flexibility and employers may wish to treat them in a similar manner to their employees when considering such requests. An equitable approach would avoid potential difficulties if a worker felt discriminated against.
According to the consultation there would be no obligation for employers to proactively state in job adverts that they are open to flexible working.