It seems hard to believe now, but up until a few years ago UK employees only had the right to request flexible working if there were a registered carer, had children under the age of 17, or children under the age of 18 with a registered disability.
But all that changed on June 30, 2014 when the UK’s Flexible Working Regulations were amended to allow anyone the right to request flexible working, so long as they have been with their employer for at least six months.
And now, seven years on, things could be about to change again as the government is proposing a legislation change to give employees the right to request flexible working from the moment they start a job.
What could the new work from home rules look like?
Although the new rules were brought in years ago, there’s a feeling they don’t go far enough as employer’s can take too long to respond to applications to work from home. Here’s what the new rules will bring in:
- Employees will now have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment, and not wait until they’re six months into the job.
- Employers will have to respond more quickly to any requests for flexible working. Under the current rules they have up to three months to respond.
The consultation document is set to be published on Thursday by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), and is part of a wider programme called the Good Work Plan. This plan also looks at the possible benefits of working ‘compressed hours’ (longer hours over fewer days), hybrid working (part at home, part in the office) and job sharing.
But some unions are already saying that the new rules still don’t go far enough, and that job descriptions should already have remote working baked into them so the onus isn’t on employees to apply for it.
The current system can have a big impact on the number of employees who actually apply for flexible working. A study carried out by Beis and the Equalities and Human Right Commission found that almost four in 10 employed mothers had not requested some type of flexible working, often because they assumed it would be turned down. Some also feared it might damage their careers.
And some are not convinced that the measures will be enough to make good on the government’s aim to ensure flexible working is the default option. Sue Coe, the TUC’s senior equalities policy officer, said: “If you look at that, does it say to you this is a policy that’s working but needs a little bit of fine-tuning to make it work.”
How to apply for flexible working
You will need to hand a written request to your employer, outlining the following:
- The date of your application
- The change to working conditions you require, e.g. flexi-time, remote working, etc.
- When you want the change to take effect
- What impact this could have on your job and, if necessary, how this can be dealt with
- A statement that this is a statutory request
- The dates, if any, of previous requests for flexible working
What happens next?
Once your application has been submitted, your employer will have three months to reach a decision, including any appeals.
If your request is turned down, you have the right to appeal.
If you’re employer arranges any meetings to discuss your application or a subsequent appeal and you fail to attend, your request can be withdrawn.
If your application is unsuccessful, you won’t be able to make another one for a further 12 months.