Could the right to request flexible working become a day-one right?

CIPD responds to the UK Government’s flexible working consultation

It’s the final day of the UK Government’s consultation on ‘making flexible working the default’ which considers, amongst other proposals, whether the right to request flexible working should be made a day-one right. The CIPD has responded positively to the notion, following an in-depth consultation with members through focus groups and a large-scale employer survey on what this change in legislation could mean practically for businesses and employees.

The CIPD launched its #FlexFrom1st campaign in February, calling on organisations and the UK Government to make this change. It’s been campaigning throughout the year, shining a light on the different forms of flexible working and the positive benefits flexibility offers both employees and their employers. CIPD research found that 46% of workers did not have access to any form of flexible working in their current role, so the consultation was a welcomed step towards the campaigns aim of championing fairer access to flexible working on behalf of millions of workers in the UK.

Flexible working in the present day

The consultation launched in September, aiming to gather views and opinions on the current regulatory framework. At present, employees in the UK must wait until they’ve been in a job for six months (26 weeks) before they can make a flexible working request. Employees are also limited to one request every 12 months and organisations must respond to such requests within three months of receipt.

Whilst the pandemic saw many workers shift to homeworking and more recently, hybrid working, it’s now an optimal time for the UK Government to consider changing legislation. Such changes will enable flexible working conversations on hours, work patterns and location to occur from the off within businesses. However, it should be noted that any changes arising from this consultation process will only apply to employees in Great Britain, as employment law is devolved in Northern Ireland and would require its own legislation.

It’s no secret that jobs advertising flexible working arrangements are more attractive to seekers than those without and CIPD research found that those who have flexibility reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their job, work-life balance, and control over their work.

Fairer flexible working requests now and in the future

The CIPD’s consultation response reiterates its call for the right to request flexible working to be made a day-one right, citing evidence from seven member focus groups across the UK and supporting data from a YouGov survey of over 1,000 senior HR and organisation decision makers. It also calls for a more flexible system to be introduced so employees can make up to two requests per year and for the time that organisations have to respond to such requests be shortened to within one month.

Furthermore, the response recommends that employers should show that they have considered alternative arrangements when rejecting a request, as this could encourage the consideration of different flexible working options that could meet the needs of both the employee and organisation.

Decisions and next steps

The UK Government will consider the evidence provided by the consultation and publish its response and legislative proposals. The timing for this is uncertain, however the CIPD will communicate any future developments or outcomes with members as soon as the information is available. Read the CIPD’s full consultation response.

Topic pages

Flexible working

Guidance, practical tools and resources to help you embed flexible working in your organisation

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CIPD Viewpoints

Flexible working uptake

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on flexible working, including actions for Government and recommendations for employers

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