UK Employees To Be Able To Request Flexible Working From The First Day Of A Job

5 minutes

The UK government has announced that employees will soon be able to request remote working or part-time hours as soon as they begin a new job, as well as employers’ time to respond being shortened. The move comes as the desire for remote work shows no sign of slowing down among a significant number of professionals.

The ‘Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill’ currently in parliament will soon formalise new rights to flexible working by increasing the accessibility of remote work for employees so it can be requested from the first day of a job. The bill will also reduce the time companies have to respond to requests for remote work or different hours.

With many companies adapting their approach to what the working week looks like with work-from-home and hybrid work models adopted during the pandemic proving very popular among employees, this news seemingly offers legislation to meet worker demand.

Despite flexible work being more commonplace in the post-COVID landscape, a survey by Trades Union Congress (TUC) in October 2021 found that half of the 13,000 working mothers who were surveyed said their boss had rejected their flexible working request, or only accepted part of it. The survey also showed that 86% of respondents who were already working flexibly said they have faced discrimination and disadvantages at work as a result of it.

How does the UK government define ‘flexible’ work?

The government stated in a note accompanying the bill that, “Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualized, or staggered hours.”

What does current flexible working legislation mean?

Currently, employees in the UK are only permitted to legally make one request for flexible work arrangements per year.

What changes to flexible working requests are being proposed?

If the proposed bill becomes reality (which is widely expected as it has broad cross-party support), employees will be able to ask for flexible working as soon as they start a new role rather than wait the current 26-week period and make two requests for flexible working in a year instead of one.

It’s important to note, the move may mean employees soon have the legal right to ask for flexibility around working, but their employer will still have the right to deny it. The legislation, however, aims for fairer, two-way communication in the process by introducing that employers would be required to consult with employees before being allowed to refuse a flexible working application. The bill also means the employer would also be required to discuss other options before rejecting a request. The deadline for responding to a flexible working request has been reduced to two months from three as part of the legislation.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Kevin Hollinrake, said it was a “no-brainer” to change the availability of flexible working from 26 weeks working for an organisation, as it will support employees with caring responsibilities and balance work and home life, and help create a more diverse workforce.

With results of a recent Unit4 survey showing that 39% of surveyed organisations had seen people quit for more flexibility elsewhere, it’s apparent flexible work is make-or-break when it comes to remaining in or taking a job.


A more flexible future?

Flexibility around work has been much in-demand among tech professionals working in sectors including Java, Python, JavaScript, Machine Learning, and more, as seen in our 2022 Talent & Salary Reports – look out for our 2023 reports soon to what are specialist recruiters have seen in the last year and predictions for the future.

In terms of a time scale for the changes to be made, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy stated it would introduce the day-one right to flexible working through secondary legislation, but the other changes are to be delivered through a private members’ bill which will be supported by the government.

Thinking of a change of role to work more flexibly? Browse our latest tech jobs or get in touch to tell us what you’re looking for.