Making flexible working the default
Our research with disabled employees and carers has revealed a common and recurring theme: flexible working is currently not flexible enough.
The National Disability Strategy committed the Government to consulting on making flexible working the default. This consultation was published in September 2021, and we have submitted a response on behalf of our membership community.
To inform our response, we spoke to our member employers and employees. Together we have developed a response that proposes the following key recommendations:
- Anyone should be able to discuss flexible working arrangements with an employer at any stage of their employment contract or when applying for a job. Having to wait until an employee has had 26 weeks’ service with an employer is preventing people from changing jobs or from entering the job market at all.
- We want employees to be able to request to work flexibly if and whenever their life situation changes. Currently, employees can only request to work flexibly once during a twelve-month period.
- We also want to see the length of time in which an employer must respond to an employee’s request shortened. Instead of the employer having three months to respond, they should respond as soon as possible.
Ultimately, we have proposed that the process and criteria for deciding if a flexible working request can be accepted should be brought in line with the processes for deciding what is reasonable (in the context of reasonable workplace adjustments in the Equality Act 2010). This would mean employees would be able to request to work differently at any time. If an employer cannot accept an initial request, they must evidence and explain to the employee why this is the case and collaborate with the employee to provide a relevant alternative that removes the challenge or need for the original request.
Flexible, home, and remote working has opened up work opportunities for many different people during the pandemic. Revising legislation at this time gives us a unique opportunity to enshrine in law the practices that have worked and increased opportunities for many people for the last two years.
In our consultation response, you will see the voices and experiences of disabled employees, as well as how supportive employers in our membership have been to ensure work keeps working for as many people as possible.
You can download our full response or a summary at the right hand side of this page (both Word documents).
“I have excelled during the last two years while having different hours and working from home”
(Employee with a disability)
“Some individuals will have reasons for the request from Day One. Not all life changes happen while you are in permanent employment. An individual should not have to worry about changing jobs or companies because they will have to lose their flexible working”.