The ‘Work Where You Want’ bill was rejected by the Senate on 26 September 2023, and this has raised numerous questions in practice. Therefore, we have prepared this Q&A on this subject. Should there be any further questions, please feel free to contact Ilaha Muhseni from our employment law team.
- Q: Has the bill been passed yet?
A: No. The Senate rejected the bill on 26 September 2023. Usually the government leaves it at that. But a minister or secretary of state can decide to draft a new bill. Whether that will be the case with this issue remains to be seen.
- Q: What did the bill regulate?
A: The bill would have amended the current Flexible Working Act, as a result of which an employee’s request for a change in workplace would have to be treated in the same way as a request for a change in working hours or working time.
- Q: Did the bill provide an actual right to work wherever you want?
A: No. Under the bill, the employee could only make a request for a change in workplace. In doing so, the employee could only choose between (more) working from the address registered with the employer as the employee’s residential address or (more) working from the employer’s work location.
- Q: Did the bill impose an obligation on the employer to approve the employee’s request for a change in the workplace?
A: No. Under the bill, the employer would be required to engage in discussions with the employee regarding the remote work request and respond in writing to the remote work request at least one month before the intended start date of the request. If the employer failed to make a decision within this timeframe, the employee’s request would automatically be granted. Additionally, the employer could only reject the employee’s request if there were compelling company or service interests, and the employer would need to provide reasons for the rejection to the employee.
- Q: What is the consequence now that the bill has been rejected by the Senate?
A: The position of the employee when submitting a remote work request will not be further strengthened.
- Q: Does the employee have other options for submitting a remote work request?
A: Yes. Under the current Flexible Working Act, an employee who has been employed by a company with at least 10 employees for at least 26 weeks can submit a written request to change their workplace. The employer is only required to consider such a request and engage in discussions with the employee if the request is rejected. The employer is not subject to an ‘enhanced’ obligation to provide compelling company or service reasons for rejecting such a request, as proposed in the rejected bill. Under the current Flexible Working Act, the employer must respond in writing to such a remote work request from the employee no later than 1 month before the desired start date. If the employer failed to make a decision within this timeframe, the employee’s request will automatically be granted. If the employee’s remote work request is approved or denied, the employee can generally only submit a new request after 1 year.