Reflections on: Making Flexible Working the Default

HR Network news

15 Oct 2021

With a live government consultation on the legislation around the right to request flexible working, this session was an opportunity to understand the debate and the questions in the consultation.

Claire Campbell, IES Director of HR Research and Consulting opened the session by highlighting the growing demand for flexible working – the growth in homeworking during the pandemic, the reduction in part time working opportunities in sectors hit hard such as retail and hospitality and the reduction in workforce participation by older workers and those with health conditions.  All these factors mean that it is now timely to revisit the current government legislation.

The scope of the consultation looks at issues such as:

  • Right to request from day one (rather than 26 weeks)
  • Reviewing the reasons to turn down requests
  • Obligating employers to provide alternative options when refusing a request
  • Making it possible to make applications more often (currently once a year)
  • Allowing for temporary arrangements.

The HR Network members attending this event debated whether these changes were fair to employers and whether they go far enough.  Comments included:

  • Many of our members already offering things like flex from day one and multiple requests
  • However they can see the challenge in certain sectors such as teaching where multiple requests would be disruptive to timetables and delivery
  • The importance of culture in take up of flexible working
  • Trying to nudge the default to ‘yes’ unless by exception
  • The need for improved line manager capability to consider requests and come up with alternatives
  • Encouraging things like trial periods to test out options.

The general feeling towards the consultation was positive and Claire highlighted examples of organisations who are adopting more proactive flexible working practices.  She encouraged anyone who feels strongly about the topics in the consultation to provide their feedback on the site.