The Government recently published its response to its “Making flexible working the default” consultation. The Government launched the consultation in the wake of new working patterns coming about following Covid lockdowns. The rationale for the consultation was to look at giving workers extra flexibility, to balance their work with other commitments or responsibilities, and to give them a greater say over when, where how they work.
The outcome of the consultation is that the Government intends to:
- Remove the requirement for employees to have been employed for 26 weeks before being eligible to make a flexible working request. Instead, under the Government’s proposals, employees would be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment.
- Require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request.
- Allow employees to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12 month period, rather than the one request they can currently make per year.
- Reduce the time limit for responding to flexible working requests from 3 months to 2 months.
- Remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
What does this mean for schools?
Schools are not environments in which flexible working can be easily facilitated, particularly in teaching roles. Whilst the consultation outcome may therefore not be welcome news to many schools, it is worth remembering that the statutory flexible working rules only permit an employee to request flexible working. Schools may decline such requests for any of the eight existing business reasons – the Government does not propose to limit employers’ ability in this regard. It is important, when rejecting a request for flexible working, to ensure a proper process has been followed, with clear reasons to justify the rejection. Failure to do so can result in the employee making a complaint to an employment tribunal or potentially bringing a claim for discrimination.
The proposed changes have not yet been brought into effect, so the current flexible working rules apply for the time being. However, schools should be aware of the proposed upcoming changes and be mindful that they will shortly need to update their flexible working policies and any flexible working request forms.
How Moore Barlow can help
If any schools would like our help to update their policies or forms once the changes have been brought into effect, they should get in touch with our Independent Schools Team.