Making Flexible Working The Default Employment Position

Published / Last Updated on 29/09/2021

On 23rd September 2021, HMRC published a new consultation document called “Making Flexible Working The Default” as part of a review of the Flexible Working Regulations (2014).  Much of this has been driven by covid-19 lockdown, home and remote working as well as employees desire to continue to work flexibly.  Indeed, two ‘spin-offs’ may be:

  • Lowered impact of pollution with less commuting to work
  • More commercial property becoming vacant which could be repurposed to solve the housing crisis.

History of Flexible Working

2003:  Parents and certain carers were allowed to request flexible working conditions from their employer

2014:  The ability to request flexible working was extended to include all employers that have been in the job for 26 weeks or more under Flexible Working Regulations (2014).

2021:  HMRC consultation in progress to make flexible working the default position for all jobs and workers with employers only able to refuse if meeting certain criteria. In addition, if an employer is unable to offer flexible working then the employer must offer alternatives.  Consultation ends on 1 December 2021.

Current Flexible Working Rules 2014

Employees of 26 weeks or longer can request flexible working.  Employers must consider the request properly and can only refuse for 8 reasons:

  • Would mean significant extra cost burdens on the business.
  • ‘On site’ work cannot be re-organised/redistributed to other workers.
  • Employer cannot recruit others to do any ‘on site’ work.
  • Would have a negative effect on quality.
  • Would have a negative effect on performance.
  • Would have a negative effect on customer demand.
  • There would be a lack of work available during requested flexible working hours.
  • The business is planning structural changes.


Flexible working is here to stay.  There are clearly pros and cons but by making it the default position, employers will have to adapt their business models where they can, to cope with any new flexible working rules.  In addition, we suspect that the above 2014 grounds for refusal will be ‘watered down’.

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