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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Millions to be empowered by government plans to strengthen day-one employment rights and increase productivity of businesses

Date: Friday 24 September 2021

Every employee in Great Britain will be given the right to request flexible working – regardless of time served – under government plans to modernise the way we work.

Under the plans – delivering on a commitment set out in the government’s 2019 manifesto – around 2.2 million more people will be given the right to request flexible working.

The proposals consider whether limiting an employee’s application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs. The consultation also looks at cutting the current 3-month period an employer has to consider any request.

If an employer cannot accommodate a request, as can be the case, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer – for example, if they couldn’t change their employee’s hours on all working days, they could consider making the change for certain days instead.

The consultation looks at a range of flexible working methods such as job-sharing, flexitime, compressed, annualised and staggered hours, as well as phased retirement – not just working from home. It allows employees to balance their work and home life, including helping people who are managing childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities as well as ensuring that people who are under-represented in Britain’s workforce, such as new parents or disabled people, have access to more opportunities.

The proposals are also good for British business. Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover – boosting their business’s productivity and competitiveness.

However, there are some circumstances where businesses will not be able to offer flexible working. That’s why the government is clear that they should still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons and will also respect freedom of contract rather than prescribing specific arrangements in legislation.

These proposals instead provide a framework to encourage conversations and balance the needs of employees and employers.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.
It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.
A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.

The proposed changes would also mean that all applicants will know they can ask for flexible working before applying for a job. Equally, employers will need to consider whether they can offer flexible working before advertising.

Alongside clear benefits to workers, there is a compelling business case for flexible working. Benefits include:

This comes as the government also announces that it will be fulfilling another 2019 manifesto commitment to give unpaid carers who are balancing a job in addition to caring for a dependant with long-term needs one week’s unpaid leave, as a day one right.

The move is set to benefit millions of people – with figures suggesting that around 5 million people across the UK are providing unpaid care, with nearly half doing so while also working full-time or part-time.