Right for all employees to request flexible working confirmed by BIS consultation

The government has confirmed its intention to move ahead with proposals first outlined in the Modern Workplace Consultation in 2011, with the right to request flexible working to be extended to all employees from 2014.

It is anticipated there will be a responsibility for employers to deal with requests for flexible working in a reasonable manner and in a reasonable timeframe. Employees will need to be able to show a period of continuous employment of 26 weeks (approximately 6 months) before being entitled to request flexible working, and rather controversially micro-businesses will not be exempt from this legislation.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) commented: “We welcome the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees. The government consulted widely on these proposals, and we were one of a great many organisations and businesses to respond positively.

“A shift in attitudes to flexible working is a natural reflection of the changing nature of work and the workforce.”

The proposed legislation will benefit certain employees, particularly employees with children can ask for a more flexible working pattern, perhaps flexitime, working from home or compressed hours.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said in his speech this morning announcing a raft of family-friendly policies: “We’re working closely with business to get the detail right. Ultimately this change is good for business: firms will be able to retain their best staff. And it’s good for our economy, a modern workforce is a flexible workforce too.”

However not all are convinced. Businesses are warning that the option of part-time working, flexible hours and job sharing is simply not practical for many firms. Business leaders are also keen to stress that companies can still refuse demands for flexible working as long as they can provide a “business” reason, which may mean that Nick Clegg’s proposals may not carry as much potency as the Coalition believes.

Dr Adam Marshall, policy director at the British Chamber of Commerce responded to the proposals: “We support the concept of flexible working, but the proposals to extend the right to request to all workers could make it more difficult for employers to offer flexibility to employees who are parents or have caring duties. Many employees already benefit from flexible working and in the rare cases where an employer feels they cannot support flexible working, a burdensome new consideration process is very unlikely to change that view.”

The full BIS consultation report can be found here.