Flexible working from day one?

At present, employees must have 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer before they can make a request to work flexibly. Requests can include working from home, altering start and finish times and their working days.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development has today reported that it believes the right to request flexible working should be granted from day one of employment to ensure equity and fairness for all employees.

I agree that employees should be treated fairly from day one, however,  if a new employee is not happy with the terms of their working arrangements, surely the right time to bring this up is during the recruitment process, rather than waiting to submit a flexible working request on their first day of employment?

Many employers have adopted a common sense approach and agreed flexible working arrangements with staff during the pandemic to enable staff to work from home, stagger shifts, avoid travelling during peak times and to home school their children. Few have distinguished between those who have 6 months service and those who have not when determining flexible working patterns. So I wonder whether we really  need to change the law.

Even if the law is changed and it becomes a day one right, it must be remembered that the Flexible Working Regulations provide a right to request, not a right to have, a flexible working arrangement.

A reasonable employer would be required to consider the request, taking into account the impact on the business before making a decision.

Maybe the impact of this pandemic will encourage employers to have a more pro-active approach to flexible working and understand that the standard 9 – 5 working day is a thing of the past!

I fully support that job adverts should state that flexible arrangements will be considered where the business can support it.  This should hopefully open up the opportunities in the job market for everyone which can only be a benefit to the employer having a greater choice of applicants.

However, it must be remembered that employers employ staff to do a job and have a difficult task of keeping their businesses afloat at the best of times.  Whilst keeping fairness at the forefront of this discussion, let’s not forget that it should be the dog wagging the tail to meet it’s needs, not the other way round!

Joy Parkes, HR Consultant

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