The government has opened a new consultation ‘Making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to’ which seeks views on proposals to reform flexible working regulations as part of their ‘Build Back Better’ approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The consultation covers the wider work being undertaken by the government to encourage and support flexible working. At the height of the first lockdown in April 2020, 47% of the UK workforce were working from home compared to just 11% in 2018. According to an Institute Of Directors survey, 74% of company directors now intend to increase home working from pre-pandemic levels, with 43% intending to increase flexible working by offering staff choices such as flexitime, staggered hours and compressed hours.
The consultation builds on the 2003 legislation which provided parents and certain other carers with a right to request a flexible working arrangement and 2014 changes which gave employees with 26 weeks continuous service the right to request a flexible working arrangement.
It sets out five proposals for changing the existing rules to better support employees to start a conversation about contract changes, and employers to respond. It considers:
- Making the Right to Request Flexible Working a day-one right to better support those who have changed jobs.
- Whether the following eight business reasons for refusing a request all remain valid.
- Extra costs that will be a burden on the business.
- The work cannot be reorganised among other staff.
- People cannot be recruited to do the work.
- Flexible working will negatively affect quality.
- Flexible working will negatively affect performance.
- The business's ability to meet customer demand will be negatively affected.
- There is a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
- The business is planning structural changes.
- Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives. Currently, this is not required, and the employer simply has to give a reason for refusing a request.
- The administrative process underpinning the Right to Request Flexible Working. Currently, only one request can be made per year and the employer has three months to consider it.
- The option to request a temporary arrangement for a set time-limited period, which the government believes is currently underutilised.
The consultation closes on 1 December 2021 and responses should be sent to
Useful guides on this topic
Working from home (employer/ee)
What expenses can employees claim for homeworking? Are the rules the same for the self-employed? How do you make a claim?
Working from home (directors)
What expenses can I claim for working from home? The same rules apply to home working directors as other employees.
Creating an office at home or converting part of a home into an office
Many company owners work from home. This guide looks at how you may obtain tax relief on the cost of converting the spare room or building a deluxe summerhouse to serve as an office in the garden.
Homeworking rates and allowances
What tax-free allowances are there for working from home? What allowances can be paid to homeworking employees?
COVID-19: Employees working from home
Working from home: a guide for employees working from home due to Coronavirus.
Consultation: ‘Making flexible working the default’