Royal Assent has been given to the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, clearing the way for employees across the UK to be given new rights regarding flexible working.
The rights will come into force in about a year’s time and will be good for both firms and their employees, the government says. There will be an updated statutory code of practice, a draft of which been published for consultation by ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). The consultation closes on September 6th.
In parallel, the government has called for evidence about “informal flexible working” and how it meets the needs of employers and employees. There is a longer period for responding, with evidence to be in by November 7th. The government is also promoting “Happy to Talk Flexible Working”, an initiative of the charity, Working Families.
“A happier workforce means increased productivity,” says Kevin Hollinrake, government minister responsible for small business and productivity. The Act follows a 2019 manifesto commitment to “encourage flexible working and consult on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to”.
Royal Assent “follows a wave of wins for workers after a record National Minimum Wage uplift and boosts to employment protections for parents and unpaid carers”, the government has added to its announcement. The 12-month gestation for the new rights will give firms “time to prepare for the changes”. Main points include:
- The right to request flexibility about where and when to work from day one of a new job, with employers required to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection.
- Flexible working can relate to aspects including working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times.
- The right to make two requests for flexible working a year, to which employers must respond within two months. Currently, they must respond to requests within three months.
There has been little public criticism of the changes but when they were proposed last year Sir James Dyson said they would deter investment in the UK. Darren Jones, chair of the Commons business and trade committee and a rising star in the Labour Party, welcomed the proposals last year with the caveat that the legal rights would only matter if they were used, linking the issue to enforcement of workers’ rights.
We welcome comments on flexible working, including whether you have introduced changes or plan to do so, and what those changes are. Feedback, which is in confidence unless you state otherwise should be sent to Jack Semple at EAMA (email: [email protected]) and Geoff Noon at MTA (email: [email protected]).