Will Flexible working be the default?
Recent analysis by the TUC of Office of National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force data (ONS, Q4 2021) suggests that hybrid working, where employees work from home at least part of the working week, has increased significantly. The TUC reports that in 2021 22.4% of workers in the UK were working from home on a regular basis, compared to only 6.8% in 2019. Scotland ranked 3rd in the UK for hybrid working, with 22.4% of respondents working flexibly, following the trend in London (29.7%) and the South East (25.5%).
In June 2021, the Government announced that it planned to consult on flexible working and published the Consultation Document entitled “Making Flexible Working the Default” on 23 September 2021. The consultation proposed various reforms to the existing right to request flexible working but does not go as far to include an automatic right to work flexibly.
There will still be a conversation between employer and employee on how best to implement flexible working where the work requirements and the individuals needs need to be balanced. The main change proposed is the abolishment of the 26 week qualifying period, allowing employees to propose flexible working from day 1.
The proposals are an attempt to broaden the scope of existing rights and it is likely that a hybrid flexible working model will become a feature of the new working world. This does appear to be supported by recent data from ONS, as their Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), highlights that in 2022 24% of people surveyed are working flexibly, an increase of 11% since February 2022. Additionally 84% of those surveyed want to work from home some of the time. This reflects the growth in workers planning to work predominantly from home, which increased from 30% in April 2021 to 42% in 2022, and the decline in those planning to return to working exclusively in the office which decreased from 11% in April 2021 to 8% in February 2022 (ONS, OPN, 2022)
The consultation closed on 1 December 2021 and employers eagerly await the results, particularly following the recent return to the workplace. The data highlighted above suggests that hybrid working is fast becoming the default and is here to stay.
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