Day-one right to request flexible working consultation confirmed and new entitlements for unpaid carers

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Day-one right to request flexible working consultation confirmed and new entitlements for unpaid carers

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On Thursday 23 September 2021, the government published a consultation for laws which will allow employees to request flexible working from day one at a new employer, replacing the current 26-week eligibility period.

The consultation, which will run until December 2021, will also consider whether to shorten the three-month response time an employer currently has to decide the outcome of an employee’s flexible working request.

Under current employment law there are eight reasons a request for flexible working can be refused by an employer:

  • planned structural changes
  • the burden of additional costs
  • quality or standards will suffer
  • they won’t be able to recruit additional staff
  • performance will suffer
  • won’t be able to reorganise work among existing staff
  • will struggle to meet customer demand
  • lack of work during the periods you propose to work.

The government proposes that employers will still be able to refuse requests if they have ‘good business reasons’ to do so but they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer and be able to show the application has been given serious consideration.

The consultation will look into the impacts of a range of flexible working practices such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, phased retirement as well as working from home. The government hopes the proposal, if taken forward by legislation, will open up more opportunities for new parents, carers and people with disabilities.

The consultation document also outlined the benefits of flexible working for employers which include:

  • Attracting and retaining top talent – research by Timewise found that 87% of people want to work flexibly and this demand is on the increase, rising to 92% for young people
  • Increasing productivity and motivation levels among staff – 9 in 10 employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity at work (89% – even more than financial incentives (77%), according to statistics from HSBC. Employers have also reported seeing improvements in staff motivation and employee relations.
  • more competitive business environment – the CBI Employment Trends survey found that 99% of all businesses surveyed believed that a flexible workforce is vital or important to competitiveness and the prospects for business investment and job creation

The government will also be fulfilling another 2019 manifesto commitment to give employees who are unpaid carers the right to one-week’s unpaid leave. The government response to the consultation on carer’s leave will set out key elements of what the leave entitlement will look like:

  • one working week of unpaid carer’s leave (per employee, per year) will be available as a day one right to those managing caring responsibilities for those with long-term care needs alongside work
  • eligibility, both in terms of who the employee is caring for and how the leave can be used, will be broadly defined
  • the leave will be available to take flexibly (from half day blocks to a whole week)
  • there will not be an extensive administrative process to ensure legitimacy of requests to take Carer’s Leave as the leave is unpaid

Employees will be required to give notice to take the leave with a minimum notice period of twice the length of time being taken, plus one day (in line with annual leave notice periods).

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