Thursday 23 September 2021 3:29 pm

Govt moves ahead with law that creates legal work-from-home right for UK employees

The government has presented legislative proposals to make the right to request flexible working from day one of employment a right. Earlier today, it released a nationwide consultation.

If the consultation is successful, every employee in the UK will be given the right to request flexible working, regardless of time served.

The period of consultation has started today, and will end on 1 December of this year.

From day one

Under the new plans, employees will be able to put in a request to work from home from their first day in a job.

This will allow anyone to make a request from the start of their job, with the move aimed at enabling women, disabled people and carers to balance their work and life commitments.

The current rules mean employees have to accrue 26 weeks – or half a year – of continuous service before they have a legal right to request flexible working which employers are able to decline on business grounds.

Discussing the proposal with City A.M. today, Dee Coakley, CEO of remote employment platform Boundless, said the legislative proposals demonstrate that “the days of employees adjusting to the workplace are well and truly over.”

She called the law “a great step in the right direction, [and] not just for the UK but for the rest of the world.”

“After all, every country is looking at every other country for guidance on ways to provide full flexible working which people across the globe have come to expect during the pandemic,” Coakley explained.

“Flexibility will be the number one perk and when that is aided by progressive legislation, it will have a great impact on the wellbeing of people.”

Labour response

Labour has criticised the plans as not going far enough, with its deputy leader Angela Rayner saying: “Labour will give workers the right to flexible working – not just the right to request it – and give all workers full rights from day one on the job.

“This is a U-turn from the Conservative manifesto which promised to make flexible working the default and once again the Conservatives have sold out working people.”

“The ‘new normal’ after this pandemic must mean a new deal for all working people based on flexibility, security and strengthened rights at work.”

‘Flexible working not the answer’

However, Tariq Rauf, founder and CEO of Qatalog, a UK-based tech company building digital working hubs, said “flexible working isn’t a magic bullet.”

“Often, employers are rushing to roll it out without laying the groundwork for its success, which can end up putting more stress on employees than there was before,” he told City A.M.

The pandemic has accelerated remote working at juggernaut speed. Employees everywhere are realising they do not need to be in an office to excel in their work and careers, Rauf said.

“Flexible working isn’t an answer in itself, it’s the culture of trust that comes with it that really makes the difference,” he concluded.