Recently, we blogged about changes to the rules for claiming working from home expenses. In a similar vein, today we’re going to take a look at some upcoming changes to flexible working rules. If you are an employer, it’s a good idea to get familiar with these changes so you stay on the right side of the law.
What do flexible working rules cover?
Flexible working covers working from home and in the office, job-sharing, flexitime and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
Employment Relations Bill
The upcoming changes to flexible working rules are contained in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill. Although it is a private members’ bill introduced by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, the government has announced it will support it. The bill is currently at the report stage before its third reading in the House of Commons. It is likely to pass into law during 2023.
Changes to flexible working rules
Currently, employees are only able to request flexible working after they have completed 26 weeks of service. The bill will change this so that employees can ask for flexible working from day one of their employment.
In addition, employees are currently able to make only one flexible working request every 12 months. The new law will allow them to make two requests in every 12-month period.
Thirdly, employers currently have to respond to requests within three months. This will go down to two months.
Finally, the procedure for requesting flexible working will be simplified. Employees will no longer be required to set out how their request for flexible working will affect their employer.
Can I refuse flexible working requests?
On the face of it, the new bill will make it easier for employees to request and obtain flexible working. However, this doesn’t mean that employers can’t refuse requests.
Indeed, the new bill will retain the eight reasons for which employers can refuse flexible working requests. These are:
- It will cost too much
- The work can’t be reorganised among other staff
- The employer can’t recruit more staff
- Flexible working will have a negative effect on quality
- It will have a negative effect on the ability to meet customer demand
- It will have a negative effect on performance
- There’s not enough work for the requested time periods
- There are planned changes to the business and the request will not fit in with these.
However, the new bill does ensure that an employer “shall not refuse the application unless the employee has been consulted about the application”.
Although the new bill is designed to make it easier to work flexibly, it’s a fact that more businesses than ever can see the benefits of flexible working. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that millions of people had to work from home and, in many cases, were more productive than when they had to go into the office.
For this reason, many businesses are now inclined to look favourably on reasonable flexible working requests. Indeed, many see it as a smart move that improves employee motivation.
That said, flexible working doesn’t work for every business. As long as you have a valid reason to refuse requests, the new bill won’t have much effect in this respect.
About Jon Pryse-Jones
Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.
An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”
Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board. “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says. He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.