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All workers allowed to request flexible working

Home working with baby

More workers want to vary their working pattern

Every employee in Britain will have the right to request flexible working – regardless of time served – under Government plans to modernise the the way people work.

The consultation looks at a range of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement – not just working from home.

It aims to allow employees to balance their work and home life, including those who are carers, new parents or disabled people to give them greater access to work.

If an employer cannot accommodate a request they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer.

The government argues that the proposals are good for British business, drawing on research which shows companies embracing flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover – boosting their business’s productivity and competitiveness.

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However, there are some circumstances where businesses will not be able to offer flexible working.

The Government is clear that they should still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons and will also respect freedom of contract rather than prescribing specific arrangements in legislation.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.

“It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.

“A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.”

The proposed changes would also mean that all applicants will know they can ask for flexible working before applying for a job. Equally, employers will need to consider whether they can offer flexible working before advertising.

The government says the benefits include:

  • Attracting top talent – 87% of people want to work flexibly, rising to 92% for young people
  • A highly motivated, productive workforce  9 in 10 employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity at work – ranking it as more important than financial incentives. Employers have reported seeing improvements in staff motivation and employee relations.
  • More competitive business environment – the CBI Employment Trends survey found that 99% of all businesses surveyed believed that a flexible workforce is vital or important to competitiveness and the prospects for business investment and job creation.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work, said: “Labour will give workers the right to flexible working – not just the right to request it.

“Labour will make flexible working a force for good so that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to less time commuting and more time with their family.”

The UK Government also announces that it will give unpaid carers who are balancing a job in addition to caring for a dependant with long-term needs one week’s unpaid leave, as a day one right.

The move is set to benefit millions of people – with figures suggesting that around five million people across the UK are providing unpaid care, with nearly half doing so while also working full-time or part-time. 

Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully said: “Millions of people face the dual challenge of balancing full or part-time work with other responsibilities such as caring for loved ones.

“By introducing one week of additional leave for unpaid carers, we will give these unsung heroes greater flexibility to help them better manage their personal and working lives, while giving them greater access to the job market.”

The Government response to the consultation on carer’s leave will confirm key elements of what the leave entitlement will look like:

  • One working week of unpaid carer’s leave (per employee, per year) will be available as a day one right to those managing caring responsibilities for those with long-term care needs alongside work. 
  • Eligibility, both in terms of who the employee is caring for and how the leave can be used, will be broadly defined.
  • The leave will be available to take flexibly (i.e. from half day blocks to a whole week).
  • There will not be an extensive administrative process to ensure legitimacy of requests to take Carer’s Leave as the leave is unpaid.

The measure will also look to balance the needs of the employee with the employer, with a minimum notice period of twice the length of time being taken, plus one day (in line with annual leave notice periods). 

Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss said:  “As we move beyond the pandemic, we must seize the opportunity to make flexible working an option for everyone.

“No-one should be held back in their career because of where they live, what house they can afford, or their responsibility to family.

“I want everyone to have the same opportunities regardless of the background or location. This is the right thing to do for workers, families and our economy.” 



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