Right to request flexible working should begin with job offer

People should be able to make a flexible working request from the moment they are offered a job, say solicitors’ leaders.

The Law Society of England and Wales has this week submitted its response to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s consultation: Making Flexible Working the Default.

Since 2014, all employees have had the right to request a flexible working arrangement – covering work location, working hours and work pattern – after being in their role for 26 weeks.

“Giving employees the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job is a positive development, but the government can do more,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“They should extend this right to the time someone is offered a position. This would encourage employers and employees to have these conversations when the terms of employment are being negotiated and there is more room for both parties to identify solutions.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been required to work flexibly and have demonstrated the ability to do so successfully.

“Employees may need to work flexibly for many different reasons and should feel confident to make such requests from the moment an employer asks them to work for them.

“If flexibility is an important factor in deciding whether to accept a new role the prospective employee should feel comfortable about raising this before they have to resign from their current position.”

The Law Society agrees with the consultation suggestion that employers should be required to show that they have considered alternative working arrangements when rejecting a statutory request for flexible working.

“Considering alternatives and having a dialogue with the employee should be key components of properly considering a flexible working request,” added I. Stephanie Boyce.

“If a flexible working request is denied workers may be able to make an employment tribunal claim. However, the backlog in the employment tribunals mean they may face long delays in having their claim heard, which is likely to have a negative impact on both parties. Investment is needed to ensure timely access to justice for all.” 

Notes to editors

Read the government consultation

Read our response to the consultation

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