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Government outlines plans for flexible work rights for all

Plus flexible parental leave out to consultation

The UK government has put forward proposals for radical change to modernise the British workplace.

The promise in last year's Coalition Agreement to extend the right to request flexible working to all UK workers has now moved a stage closer, with specific proposals put out to consultation.  In summary the proposals are to:

  • Extend the right to request flexible work to all employees (provided they have been working continuously for the employer for 26 weeks)
  • Replace the existing statutory process for considering requests with a duty to consider requests ‘reasonably’ alongside a new Code of Practice to guide employers in considering requests
  • Retain sound business reasons as the only grounds for refusal
  • Allow (but not require) employers to prioritise competing requests to take account of the employees’ personal circumstances
  • Amend the rules so that employees could make an additional request within a 12-month period if they state in their original request that they expect it only to be temporary arrangement (e.g. in the case of illness or short-term caring responsibility)
  • Consult with business leaders and the recruitment industry to find ways to help those not in work enter the workplace with flexible working arrangements.

Recognising the business benefits

The consultation document also recognises the wider relevance and business benefits of flexible working:

"We want to stimulate cultural change to make flexible working practices the norm, which we know will require more than just legislation. We will therefore also be developing non-legislative measures to promote flexible working opportunities both for those with a job and for those looking for one...

"We will therefore work with business leaders and employers to promote the business case for flexible working"

 The government feels the current arrangements have been a success, with 80-90% of requests being granted. And this is seen as a good base for a more business-focused extension of flexible working:

But we want to go further. We think that by extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, we can spread the benefits flexible working brings to all parts of society and the economy. For businesses, holding onto experienced and skilled staff is important in maintaining quality and containing costs. Offering flexible working can help retain staff and widen the talent pool, so employers are able to recruit people with more skills; it can also increase commitment and loyalty of staff members.

This, in turn, translates into increased productivity and improved profitability, which we estimate will benefit business by an average of £52.4m per year."

The proposals for the Modern Workplace also encompass new arrangements for Flexible Parental Leave, tougher action on Equal Pay, and slight adjustments to the Working Time Directive to support these other changes.



May 2011


Further information

As we predicted with earlier articles, the Coalition Government is putting flexible working at the heart of its proposed changes to employment law.

Here we take a look at the proposals put out for consultation on May 16th.

Further information is on the Department for Business website, with details of how to respond to the consultation.

Click here to go to the government consultation pages.

Flexibility verdict: At Flexibility we warmly welcome these proposals - not only the proposals themselves but also the thinking behind the proposals and the business-friendly tone of the proposals.

Employers should welcome these proposals for their coherence and fairness. And, as we always say, what they need to do is to adopt a strategic rather than a reactive approach to flexible working - that's the way to reap the business benefits.





All material copyright Flexibility.co.uk 2009