Could flexible working become the default?

Covid has without question opened up the conversation about working patterns and environments.  So much so, that the Government is proposing to give everyone the right to request flexible working on their first day at a new job.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has launched a consultation called ‘Making Flexible Working the Default’, which sets out five proposals for flexible working.

What are the five proposals?

The consultation will consider:

  1. Making requesting flexible working from day one a right instead of the current six months
  2. Whether the eight business reasons for refusing a request should still be valid
  3. Requiring employers to suggest alternatives if a request is turned down
  4. The admin process around the right to flexible working, including whether people should be allowed to make more than one request a year
  5. Requesting a temporary arrangement

The consultation ends on 1st December. If the proposals are given the green light, businesses will have to respond to requests quicker than the current three-month limit. They’ll also need to have robust evidence as to why any applications are refused.

The current list of reasons why businesses can turn down a request are that flexible working will: 

  1. Impose an unreasonable burden of additional costs on the organisation
  2. Have a detrimental effect on the organisation’s ability to meet its customers’ demands
  3. Have a detrimental impact on quality
  4. Have a detrimental impact on performance
  5. Create unacceptable difficulties for the organisation, as it has been unable to make arrangements to reorganise the work among other staff
  6. Create unacceptable difficulties for the organisation as it would be/has been unable to recruit additional staff
  7. Create unacceptable difficulties for the organisation due to an insufficiency of work during the periods an employee proposed to work
  8. Be inappropriate due to planned structural changes

What is flexible working?

It can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Remote or hybrid working
  • Part-time working
  • Job sharing
  • Flexitime
  • Compressed hours
  • Staggered hours
  • Phased retirement

Tips from our HR expert

“Covid has highlighted the importance of work life balance and in today’s recruitment market, many job seekers are now looking for more flexibility,” says Lynn Owen, HR Consultant. “In fact, it is becoming as attractive as the starting salary. 

“By not offering flexible working options on job vacancies, you could be losing out on great talent to other companies. As for current employees, by saying no to their request, they may look to move somewhere that will say yes.”

Not a Member? To discover more about our flexible broker proposition, call Simon Bailey on 07483 929046 or email her at

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