Millions of workers to get right to request flexible working from day one in job under new plans

New legislation will also allow workers to do jobs for multiple employers by removing exclusivity clause restrictions

Millions of workers across the UK will be able to request flexible working from day one of their job, under new government plans.

The legislation making its way through parliament means that employees will no longer have to wait 26 weeks before making a request for a flexible working arrangement, with the new measures to give them greater freedom over where, when and how they work.

If an employer cannot accommodate a request to work flexibly, they will be required to discuss alternative options with staff before rejecting a request. The period of time in which employers must respond to a request has also been reduced to two months, down from three.

Ministers have outlined a range of flexible working options, including job-sharing, flexitime and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours, and two requests can be made within a 12-month period as part of proposals.

Under the existing rules, workers must set out the effects of the requested flexible working arrangement to their employer, but this is also set to be removed by the proposed legislation.

Workers will be able to request flexible working from day one of their job under new plans (Photo: Adobe)
Workers will be able to request flexible working from day one of their job under new plans (Photo: Adobe)
Workers will be able to request flexible working from day one of their job under new plans (Photo: Adobe)

It comes after flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people, the government said.

Small business minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer. Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.”

Exclusivity clauses to be scrapped

The announcement comes alongside new laws coming into effect that will allow the lowest paid to work for different employers.

Workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income on or below the lower earnings limit of £123 a week will now be protected from exclusivity clauses being enforced against them, which restricted them from working for multiple employers.

The government said its reforms will ensure around 1.5 million low-paid employees can work multiple short-term contracts, benefitting people such as students or those with caring responsibilities.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it had been a year since a consultation on flexible working closed and people were “tired of waiting for action. She added: “Flexible working should be available to everyone. It’s how we keep mums in work, close the gender pay gap and give dads more time with their kids, and it’s how we keep disabled workers, older workers and carers in their jobs.

“Allowing working people to ask for flexible working from their first day in a job would be a small step in the right direction, but we’d like the Government to go much further to ensure that flexible work now becomes the norm.

“Ministers must change the law so that every job advert makes clear what kind of flexible working is available in that role, and they should give workers the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job – not just the right to ask.”