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Flexible working can be requested from first day of job, under new plans

All workers are to get the right to request flexible working from the first day of a job in new laws being drawn up. Could this affect you?

Ministers said they wanted to make "flexible working the default" for employees, but there will still be grounds for companies to reject a request.

Flexible working includes working from home, job sharing, compressed hours, flexitime, part-time or term time-only working.

Workers on zero-hours contracts will also get new rights giving them the freedom to earn more money under the proposals, the Government said.

Under current laws, an employee must have worked 26 weeks before requesting a flexible working agreement. There is also a broad scope for businesses to reject the claim and a decision does not have to be made for three months. New legislation will force employers to consult with workers and discuss alternatives rather than outright rejecting the request, with the process completed within two months.

Currently, a request can only be made every 12 months, but this will be reduced to six in the legislation which is making its way through Parliament. Workers will also no longer have to explain the reasons why they are requesting flexible working, according to Sky News.

Meanwhile, 1.5 million people earning less than £123 a week will not be prohibited to adhere to exclusivity clauses, meaning they can hold more than one job. This will help people like students and carers who need more flexibility over where they work, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) hopes.

It should also see lower job vacancy numbers. Latest figures show there are more vacancies than there are unemployed. ONS figures showed there was 0.9 people available for every unfilled role, Sky News reports.

Half of working mums said their flexibility request was rejected or only partly accepted, in a survey for the TUC union and Mother Pukka.

Of the 13,000 polled, 86% said they had faced discrimination and disadvantage at work due to their flexible work arrangements.

Meanwhile two in five mothers (42%) said they wouldn't feel comfortable asking about flexible working in an interview for fear of discrimination.

This is despite the legal right to request flexible working being in place for 20 years.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the Government needed "to go much further" so flexible working becomes the norm.

She told the Guardian: “Ministers must change the law so that every job advert makes clear what kind of flexible working is available in that role. And they should give workers the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job – not just the right to ask.”

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.