Employees can ask for flexible working from day one

Tuesday, 06 December 2022

Employees will be given the right to ask for flexible working from their first day at a new job, the government has proposed.

New legislation will mean that workers will not have to wait for 26 weeks to seek flexible arrangements, as set out under the current law.

The government also wants to introduce laws that make it easier for people on low incomes to get a second job.

However, the Trades Union Congress said the government must go "much further".

Flexible working has continued after the UK emerged from Covid lockdowns.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that if an employer cannot accommodate a request to work flexibly, it would have to discuss "alternative options" before rejecting it.

It said that flexible working did not just mean working from home but also included job-sharing, flexitime or staggered hours.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, which represents the human resources industry, said: "This new right will help normalise conversations about flexibility at the start of the employment relationship, with significant benefits for employees in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance."

The government also said it planned to remove "exclusivity clause restrictions" for workers on contracts who are paid £123 or less a week. It will allow people to work for multiple employers and take on second jobs.

Having campaigned for this right for carers, Carers UK warmly welcomes this plan, which would make a difference to millions of unpaid carers juggling their work with looking after an older, disabled or seriously ill relative or friend.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

Having the ability to work flexibly when also juggling an unpaid caring responsibility makes a big difference to unpaid carers – with our research showing 88% of workers believe flexible working to be most helpful when caring alongside work.

Being able to request flexible working from day one of starting a job means carers can now better balance their caring responsibilities from the off, giving many carers the opportunity to return to work, stay in work and progress their career – which is so important to many.

This, alongside five days of carer’s leave as proposed in the Carer’s Leave Bill, would transform the lives of working carers. We hope to see, in tandem, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill succeed in its passage through Parliament including Committee Stage this week. The latter would allow employees - including working carers - to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period and remove the unnecessary burden on the employee to explain how the request would affect the employer.

We see this plan as a real win-win for carers and employers, with improved staff retention, recruitment and productivity.”

Previous research from the charity shows 8% of carers reported being at risk of reducing their hours at work or having to give up work entirely without access to flexible working.

Sources: BBC and Carers UK