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Malcolm Gregory is a partner in the employment law team at Royds Withy King

Expert advice: Government to give workers immediate right to flexible working

Millions of workers are to be given the right to request flexible working from the first day of employment. What will it mean for your business? Employment law expert Malcolm Gregory of Royds Withy King explains.

The existing flexible working rules allow an employee with six-month service to make a request to change their hours, work location or days that they work on a permanent basis.

That right can be triggered no more than once each year and an employer has scope to refuse it for certain prescribed reasons.

The criticism around the existing legislation is that the world of work has moved on since it was first enacted in 2014.

Originally, the right only related to those wanting flexibility to deal with parental or caring responsibilities.

A private members bill came before Parliament in June 2021 which requires employers to offer flexible working in employment contracts from day one and to advertise vacancies as suitable for flexible working.

If the government is planning to publish their proposals regarding flexible working shortly, it would appear that their plans may perhaps go further than the current private members bill.

If the government is going to make the right to request flexible working a right from day one of employment which employers will have to honour unless there is a good reason not to do so, it will certainly take employers some time to get used to how that will impact on their organisational arrangements.

It would make sense to ensure that any improved rights in this area remain restricted to being possible once each year.

If employees are able to legally make flexible work requests at their whim, the uncertainty that would create for organisations and work colleagues is likely to be unmanageable.

The way in which employees and organisations have had to adapt during the pandemic has been sufficient proof of concept that hybrid working and more flexibility for employees can be accommodated with substantial benefit for all parties, but the ability for employers to retain some level of certainty around their organisational management must be factored into any revised regulations.

Malcolm Gregory is a partner in the employment law team at Royds Withy King

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