Flexible working rights stand to benefit millions of people

From today (April 6th 2024), UK employees will have the legal right to request flexible working from their first day in a new job.From today (April 6th 2024), UK employees will have the legal right to request flexible working from their first day in a new job. Under the updated regulations, employers must engage in discussions with employees and consider alternative solutions before declining a flexible working request. Decisions on applications must now be made within two months, reducing the previous timeframe of three months, which includes any appeals. Additionally, employees will be entitled to submit two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, rather than the previous allowance of one.

 Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD and co-chair of the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, welcomed the change:  “This new day-one right stands to benefit millions of people, helping them to balance their work and life commitments and give them more say and more opportunity in where and how they work. Flexibility around time, scheduling and place of work can be transformative in opening up opportunities for people to get into and stay in work, especially those who have health conditions, caring responsibilities, or other life choices they want to make. With an aging population, and rising levels of economically inactive people due to ill health, flexible working is more important than ever, and has been shown to support better wellbeing, making it good for individuals as well as organisations.”  

 “The pandemic accelerated the understanding of flexible working, and the demand for it, and many organisations have responded positively by introducing more flexible working policies. Employees are often better able to balance their work needs with their personal life, while employers report being able to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce which can flex to business needs. Managed well, it’s a win-win for both.” 

 “While many organisations will already be familiar with remote and hybrid working, this new right can help to normalise conversations about flexibility in all its forms. Organisations should see it as positive encouragement for how jobs and workplaces can be shaped to support different forms of flexible working. Being proactive in providing different ways people can work flexibly will be crucial in ensuring that all employees have access to flexible opportunities. This will be particularly important for those in roles that tie them to a place of work, who don’t have the option to work from home.  

 “We’ve been calling for this day-one right since February 2021 through the CIPD’s ‘Flex from First’ campaign. I’m delighted to see this change come into force now and look forward to continuing to champion flexible working through the work of the CIPD and the Government Taskforce, and through the wider people profession.” 

Jo Sutherland of Magenta Associates agrees: “This is a law that needs celebrating,” she says. “It heralds a sentiment shift in the perceived value of flexible working, not just for employees who can improve the balance of their work and home lives, but for the progressive organisations out there that recognise by offering flexibility they can improve talent attraction and retention, not to mention business performance. We must acknowledge that employee expectations have changed over the past few years with many now accustomed to enjoying freedom and flexibility. Times have changed, and so should business. It’s the right thing to do for societal reasons. Granted, change can be intimidating. However, it is vital for growth. While some businesses can’t offer as much flexibility due to the nature of their operations, others can. But many won’t. What businesses need is more education on the benefits of flexible working prior to facilitating it for their employees, and to encourage those who are sceptical.”