Workers are to be given the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment, and employers will need to discuss alternative options before they can reject the request under new employment rules.
New legislation will centre on the following changes:
- remove the 26-week qualifying period before employees can request flexible working, making it a day-one right
- require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request
- allow employees to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period
- require employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three
- remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer
In addition, exclusivity clauses will be banned in workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week.
While not everyone will want a second job, today’s laws on exclusivity clauses remove unnecessary red tape that prevents those who do – for example gig economy workers, younger people, or carers who cannot commit to a full-time role. The laws will also help businesses plug crucial staffing gaps by giving employers access to recruit from a wider talent pool.
Government believes the raft of measure will create a happier, more productive and diverse workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns. In addition, allowing shift workers to have multiple employers will enable businesses to plug crucial staffing gaps.
The proposals come from the Making Flexible Working The Default consultation. Employers and employees are encouraged to have “constructive and open-minded conversations” about flexible working and find arrangements that work for each side.
Employment experts have warned of the impact of the measures on small businesses using shift workers. Chris Sanderson, CEO of the hospitality recruitment app, Limber said: “These proposed laws pose a massive challenge. When scheduling your staff, the rota only fits one way, and constant claims for flexible working, now backed up by this proposed legislation, will put yet more strain on staffing in those industries.”
Steven Mather, director at Leicester-based Steven Mather Solicitor: “Businesses have to be careful not to be discriminatory when dealing with flexible working requests or they’ll have employment tribunal claims on their hands from day one, too. They’ll also have to work a bit harder to reach a compromise on what would be acceptable to the business.”