The majority (57%) of employers agree that the right to request flexible working should be a day-one right, research from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, shows.

Agreement is highest from those in the public sector (69%) compared to those in the private sector (54%). In addition, larger organisations of 250+ employees were more likely to agree than SMEs (62% compared to 51%).

The findings are part of the CIPD’s response to the Government’s flexible working consultation, which closed on Wednesday 1 December.

The consultation was launched following the Conservative Party’s commitment to look at making flexible working the default in its 2019 manifesto. Currently, employees need to have been with their employer for at least 26 weeks before they can make a flexible working request and they are limited to one request every 12 months.

The CIPD surveyed over 1,000 UK employers as part of its response. It found: 

  • Over a third (36%) of organisations already accept requests for flexible working from day one of employment.
  • Over two fifths (42%) say they will be more likely to grant requests for flexible working, besides working from home, once pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, compared to before COVID-19, just 7% of employers said they would be less likely to. 
  • Around three quarters (74%) felt that employers should be required to show that they have considered alternative working arrangements when rejecting a statutory request for flexible working.

The CIPD launched its #FlexFrom1st campaign in February, calling for all employees to have the right to request flexible working from day one in their role, and has been campaigning for the change throughout the year.  

In the consultation response, the CIPD reiterates its call for flexible working requests to be a day-one right, as well as having a more flexible system which allows employees to make up to two requests in a year. It also calls for the timeframe for organisations to respond to flexible working requests to be shortened from within three months to within one month.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, comments:

"It’s clear that the pandemic has accelerated the move to more flexible working and that now is the time to move away from ways of working that have barely changed for generations. While hybrid and remote working are hugely beneficial to employees whose jobs allow this, there is much more that can be done for those who must attend their place of work.

"Flexibility is about more than where someone works, it must also be about when and how people work. Flexible working is good for inclusion and providing opportunities for people who want or need to be able to work more flexibly, as well as being good for their overall wellbeing and performance.

"A day-one right to request will require employers to think about how jobs can be done flexibly, and encourage them to promote jobs and roles as open to flexible working. This will not only better meet the changing expectations of employees, but also help to attract more diverse talent giving more opportunity and choice to all."

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.