The bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Yasmin Qureshi (Labour MP for Bolton South East). Speaking during second reading on 28 October 2022, she said the purpose of the bill was to enable more people to request flexible working, enabling them to enter the workforce. She also said the bill would help those already in employment balance work and home life.

The bill would:

  • require employers to consult with an employee before rejecting a flexible working request
  • enable employees to make two requests for flexible working in the same 12-month period
  • reduce the amount of time employers have to decide on whether to approve or reject a request for flexible working from three months to two months
  • remove the requirement that employees must explain the effect of their request on the employer

The government supported the bill, having previously consulted on some of these proposals in 2021. In October 2022, the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published explanatory notes for the bill following its introduction in the House of Commons. In January 2023, the department also published a delegated powers memorandum and an impact assessment for the bill. In February 2023, following a change to the structure of government, a successor department, the Department for Business and Trade, published a separate delegated powers memorandum ahead of the bill’s stages in the House of Lords.

Only one amendment was tabled in the House of Commons. Currently, the right to request flexible working is subject to the requirement that an employee has at least 26 weeks of continuous service. At committee stage, Tulip Siddiq, a shadow treasury minister, tabled an amendment that would have changed the existing regulations in order to establish that flexible work applications could be made from the day on which an employee started work. The government had included this proposal in the 2019 Queen’s Speech and in a 2021 consultation but it was not included on the face of the bill. The then minister for enterprise, markets and small business, Kevin Hollinrake, confirmed the government would introduce new regulations giving employees the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment should the bill pass. Mr Hollinrake said this would be done so that the change took effect at the same time as the measures in this bill. Following the debate, Ms Siddiq withdrew her amendment.

The bill received first reading in the House of Lords on 27 February 2023. The second reading is scheduled to take place on 19 May 2023.

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