Workplace: IWFM supports government proposals to make flexible working the default


  • Future of work,
  • Workplace

01 December 2021

Work life

Following engagement with IWFM members, our Policy team has submitted the Institute’s response to a government consultation on reforming flexible working regulations.

In the submission we outlined our support for the Government’s key proposal to make flexible working the default, giving employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one in a job, rather than having to wait up to six months as under existing legislation.

Recognising that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, we pointed out that flexible working arrangements benefit both employees and employers by opening up job opportunities, fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce, improving staff wellbeing, and increasing motivation and productivity.

We advocated for employers to liaise with their workplace and facilities management teams on issues such as space management and security when considering flexible working requests, highlighting the role of data and technology in making and implementing decisions.

Responding to further questions in the consultation, we:

  • argued that the extent to which the statutory business reasons for rejecting a flexible working request remain valid depends on the industry sector and the nature of the work. The pandemic has shown that most office-based roles can be carried out remotely and flexibly, making it very difficult for an employer to reject a request on the grounds that flexible working will negatively affect quality or performance. In sectors such as catering, hospitality and manufacturing, where total flexibility is not possible, we believe employers should give careful consideration to flexible models such as staggered or compressed hours
  • agreed that employers should be required to show that they have considered alternative working arrangements when rejecting a request for flexible working. We asserted that it is too easy currently for an employer to reject a request: this discourages people from seeking working arrangements that better suit them and their families
  • maintained that the statutory framework needs to change in relation to how often an employee can submit a request to work flexibly (currently once in any 12 months), pointing out that changes to an individual’s circumstances necessitating a change to their work pattern are not predictable and can occur more frequently than once a year. These situations should be dealt with through open conversations between the employer and employee to discuss their respective needs, without the requirement for a statutory limit
  • stated our view that the current statutory timeframe in which an employer must respond to a flexible working request (three months) is too long, particularly in situations where an urgent unforeseen event, such as a family illness, arises. Waiting for three months in such circumstances could have a negative effect on the employee’s wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

We would like to thank members of our People Management and Technology SIGs for their support and contributions to our response to this consultation.

If you would like further details on the consultation or on our response, please email: