Flexible and Hybrid Working – what’s next?

26 January 2023

As employers continue to debate their approach to flexible and hybrid working, the Government has published its response to the 2021 consultation on updating flexible working laws, which includes some changes to make flexible working more accessible.

Flexible and hybrid working continues to be debated in many workplaces, with employer policies and employee expectations regarding flexibility not always aligned. Recently, the non-profit group Women in Banking and Finance jointly published a report with the London School of Economics into hybrid working in banking, asset management and professional services.  That report concluded that, whilst many firms had in place hybrid policies requiring a fixed minimum of days in the office each week, employees (including managers) were largely taking a business needs approach, and judging attendance on the basis of their interpretation of business need, and generally applying a more flexible approach than envisaged by  management.  The report found that being prescriptive about office attendance was likely to deter some workers, particularly women, who would likely choose employers who operated a more flexible arrangement.

As employers continue to debate their approach, the Government published its response to its 2021 consultation on updating flexible working laws in which it indicated its intention to make access to flexible working easier for employees, although it stops short of some of the radical changes contemplated in its consultation paper.

What is changing?

  • the right to request flexible working will be available to employees from day one instead of after 26 weeks' service 
  • employees will be allowed to make two requests (previously one request) within a 12 month period
  • the response time for employers will reduce from three months to two months
  • there will be a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request
  • the procedure for requesting flexible working will be simplified by removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might impact the employer. 

What is staying the same?

  • The Government emphasises in its response that this remains a right to request, not a right to have flexible working.
  • The list of eight reasons the employer has to refuse a request for flexible working remains the same

It is yet to become clear when these changes will come into force.

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