U.K. Government Announces Consultation on Flexible Working Rights

September 24, 2021 Advisory

The U.K. Government has announced steps that could have a significant impact on employers’ developing approaches to flexible working in the country.

With more employees physically returning to work and employers adapting to new post-pandemic norms on working patterns, the Government is attempting to reframe flexible working rights.

Flexibility

Specifically, the Government has launched a consultation asking for views on whether (and how) to enhance employee flexible working rights in the U.K.

The consultation focuses on the following key areas:

  • making the right to request flexible working a “day one” right, by removing the requirement for 26 weeks of continuous service before an employee can make a formal flexible working request; and
  • considering:
    • whether the eight existing business reasons for refusing a statutory request for flexible working remain valid;
    • requiring employers to suggest alternatives if they intend to refuse a request;
    • the administrative process underpinning the right to request flexible working; and
    • how the right to request a temporary flexible arrangement could be better utilised.

The consultation also sets out other steps the Government proposes to take to explore how greater flexible working can be developed and integrated into working practices. These include:

  • asking a “flexible working taskforce” to consider maximising developments over the last 18 months as more people start to return to the workplace and as employers respond with new approaches to working; and
  • considering how to develop a genuinely pro-flexible working culture across and within organisations and industries. The Government intends to launch a call for evidence looking at the sorts of extra flexibility people may need to help them – in the office and at home.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.

Carer’s Leave

The Government has also published its response to its consultation on carer’s leave. It has confirmed that it will introduce a “day one” right to carer’s leave, which will consist of one week (five working days) of unpaid leave per year for employees managing long-term caring responsibilities alongside work. The leave will be available to take flexibly (i.e., from half-day blocks to a whole week). This right will be introduced when Parliamentary time permits.

The flexible working consultation and the carer’s leave consultation are available online.

If you have any questions about the above or any other employment law matter, please contact your regular AT attorney or Jonathan Bruck, Head of U.K. Employment and Immigration Law.

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