From 23rd September a consultation began which runs until 1st December 2021, on whether to reform flexible working regulations (The Flexible Working Regulations 2014). as one of the North Wests Leading HR Consultancies, Bury based People Matters HR have put together the following information to help businesses understand what may – or may not – be on the table.


So, what’s the current position?
In 2003, the Government introduced the Right to Request flexible working for parents and certain other carers. This gave the is group the opportunity to request:
• a change to work location
• a change to their number of working hours
• a change to their working pattern.
In 2014, the Right to Request scheme was amended to allow all employees with 26 weeks continuous service the chance to apply.


Pandemics bring about change – for the better
As part of the “Building Back Better” program stemming from the pandemic, the Government, CBI, IOD and Unions have recognised that, whilst current practices are not sustainable long term, we have all seen what is possible in terms of flexible working and the benefits it can bring.
The aim is to seize the opportunity to make flexible working part of the UK Business DNA, free businesses from the standard 9-5 and to recruit and retain the best talent possible. It must, however, be recognised that flexible working and home working, works for some people and not others and some roles and not others.

5 key proposals
The proposals start with an employee request and there are five key proposals:
• Making the Right to Request Flexible Working a day one right;
• Whether the eight business reasons for refusing a Request all remain valid;
• Requiring the employer to suggest alternatives;
• The administrative process underpinning the Right to Request Flexible Working; and
• Requesting a temporary arrangement.

Additional Government Steps
Several other steps are proposed to help make flexible working the default. These include:
• Inviting the “Flexible Working Taskforce” to consider how to move forward from the current response to Covid-19. This includes maximising on lessons learnt (good and bad)        over the last 18 months as more people start to return to the workplace and as employers respond with new approaches to working.
• The Government is considering how to secure a genuinely flexible working friendly culture across and within organisations by launching a separate call for evidence in due      course.
There is also a proposal to require employers to say whether jobs may be open to flexible working in a recruitment advert.

So, when is this likely to come in to force?
At this stage, there is no change to the law or impact on the workforce.


That said, it is apparent that the Government strongly supports this and at People Matters HR, we don’t foresee any objection from opposition politicians – therefore it is likely this could become a proposal in next November’s Queens Speech and pass into Law in April 2023.
However, as it is already linked to the Taylor Report, part of the Good Work Plan implemented in April 2020, it could pass into law sooner, especially whilst it is so relevant to current working practices. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we would estimate that this becomes law in April 2022.


How does this translate in to your business?
When we understand more about just what the firm legislative proposals are, we can begin to build these into working practices. For now, we understand that things to be considered would include:
• The procedural aspects of the proposals are minor and would simply require an update to current flexible working policies to reflect the new rules. Businesses need only to      keep an open mind and work from the position that we have all had to try it during lock down, so let’s take both the positives and negatives from those experiences.
• Businesses may need to take extra expenses in to account, i.e. lap tops rather than desk tops, systems such as “Teams” being in place to work collaboratively and additional mobile phones – however, most businesses have moved to that way of working already. Another consideration is H&S, including home Display Screen Assessments along with the possibility that employers might have to supply desks, chairs, key boards, mice, screens and docking stations.
• There will be challenges around lone working and mental health, so businesses will need to build in performance management systems, IT monitoring systems, safe cyber security and GDPR solutions and physical attendance in the office to meet with other team members to reduce isolation and promote team working.


Conclusion
As leading outsourced HR advisors, the People Matters team will monitor the consultation and advise our clients on any actions they are required to take and when, as soon as we have some firm legislative proposals. If you wish to contribute to the consultation, it is available from: www.gov.uk/beis