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Written Statements

Volume 724: debated on Monday 5 December 2022

Written Statements

Monday 5 December 2022

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Flexible Working Consultation: Government Response

The Government have today published their response to the consultation on flexible working. This delivers on our manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working, and represents an important part of our drive to deliver growth by helping people to access and stay in work.

Flexible Working Consultation Response

In 2021, the Government consulted on changes to the right to request flexible working. This right currently supports all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours and/or working pattern. The legislation enables employees and employers to find arrangements that work for both sides. The consultation proposals were intended to help ensure it remains fit for purpose.

The response, published today, states that the Government will legislate to:

Make the right to request flexible working a day one right. This will bring an estimated additional 2.2 million people into scope of the legislation and encourage early conversations about flexibility in the job design, recruitment and appointment phases. Supporting employees and employers to agree flexible working arrangements from day one will be an important measure in the context of a tight labour market, as it will assist those who wish to return to work but can only do so on certain patterns.

Introduce a new requirement for employers to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request. This will enable both parties to explore the types of flexibility that may be available within the specific role before reaching a conclusion.

Allow two statutory requests in any 12-month period, rather than the current one request. This will help to ensure that individuals do not feel “trapped” in certain work arrangements they know are not sustainable for them, particularly in the event that their circumstances change within 12 months.

Require a decision period of two months in respect of a statutory flexible working request, rather than the current three. This acknowledges that long delays in responding to requests can lead to negative outcomes for both employers and employees, for example where a response is needed quickly, and the alternative is the person dropping out of work.

Remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with. This will create a level playing field among those making requests as it will mean the legislation no longer favours those with more experience or better writing skills.

The first of these measures will be delivered through secondary legislation. The other measures require primary legislation, and the Government are pleased to support the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi).

The response also commits to non-legislative action: developing guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working; and launching a call for evidence to better understand how informal flexible working operates in practice.

As a package, these steps will encourage better two-way conversations about flexible working and prompt both the employer and employee to focus on identifying an arrangement that works for them both.

The review of the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 showed that flexible working can reduce vacancy costs, increase skill retention, enhance business performance, and reduce staff absenteeism rates. In the current context of a tight labour market, flexible working can also play a key role in attracting people into work. Research conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team has shown that offering flexible working can attract up to 30% more applicants to job vacancies, and a recent Office for National Statistics publication revealed that older workers working flexibly would be more likely to say they were planning to retire later. Strengthening the legislative framework will therefore help to ensure that those who are under-represented in the workforce have access to more employment opportunities.

The Government recognise there is no one-size-fits-all approach to work arrangements since the needs of businesses and individuals will differ in each circumstance. It is therefore important that the legislation remains a right to request, not a right to have, and that employers continue to be able to refuse requests for specified business reasons.

The territorial extent of the proposals included in the Government’s consultation response extends to Great Britain—employment law is devolved to Northern Ireland.

I will place copies of the consultation response in the Libraries of the House.


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Homelessness Prevention Grant: Additional Funding

The Government understand the pressures people are facing with the cost of living and have taken decisive action to support households. This includes the energy price guarantee, to support households with their energy bills over the winter, and a further £37 billion of support for the cost of living this year. At autumn statement the Chancellor also unveiled £26 billion of support to protect the most vulnerable households in 2023-24.

I recognise that some vulnerable households may find themselves at risk of homelessness and may need additional support. The Government want to make sure councils are able to respond effectively to support households and prevent homelessness.

Homelessness Prevention Grant—winter 2022 financial support

I am therefore announcing an additional £50 million that will be made available to local authorities in England in 2022-23 through a top-up to the homelessness prevention grant. The additional funding will support local authorities to help prevent vulnerable households from becoming homeless. Local authorities will target this funding to those who need it most to help manage local homelessness pressures.

The details of individual local authority allocations can be found here: This additional £50 million investment builds on the £316 million in funding already available to local authorities through the homelessness prevention grant for 2022-23, bringing total spend through that grant to £366 million. This is part of £2 billion of Government funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next three years.


UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Today, my Department is announcing the outcome of the UK shared prosperity fund—UKSPF—investment plan validation process: the approval of plans for England, Scotland and Wales, and the publication of the UKSPF investment plan for Northern Ireland.

When we launched the UKSPF prospectus in April, my Department outlined the ambition of the fund to invest in domestic priorities and target funding where it is needed most: building pride in place; growing pay, employment and productivity; supporting high-quality skills training; and increasing life chances across the UK. This announcement represents a significant step in delivering on this ambition.

Councils and mayoral authorities across England, Scotland and Wales have worked with the private sector, civil society and others, as well as the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales, to develop local investment plans. These plans set out how funding will be targeted on local priorities, against measurable goals. All investment plans for England, Scotland and Wales have now been validated and approved, unlocking three years of investment, and we now expect UKSPF delivery to commence in earnest.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is responsible for delivery of the UKSPF. My Department has worked closely with key partners and other stakeholders to develop the UKSPF Northern Ireland investment plan, ensuring it reflects the needs and opportunities of Northern Ireland’s economy and its people. The plan published today outlines the specific interventions that will be supported, and how these will be delivered. Information regarding project funding, including commissions and our plans for project competitions, will be announced shortly.

The delivery of the UKSPF, worth £2.6 billion including Multiply, is a central pillar of this Government’s levelling-up agenda and a significant component of its support for places across the UK. As such, today’s announcement reaffirms our manifesto commitment to match EU structural fund receipts in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all areas of England.

The approval of investment plans kickstarts delivery in every part of the country and will lead to visible, tangible improvements to the places where people work and live. Alongside investment in skills, supporting those furthest from the labour market and promoting community cohesion, this will give individuals right across the UK even more reasons to be proud of their area.



Ship Safety: Draft Merchant Shipping (Inspections of Ro-Ro Passenger Ships and High-Speed Passenger

The draft Merchant Shipping (Inspections of Ro-Ro Passenger Ships and High-Speed Passenger Craft) Regulations 2023 were published today, along with an accompanying draft explanatory memorandum. The draft regulations revoke and replace the Merchant Shipping (Mandatory Surveys for Ro-Ro Ferry and High Speed Passenger Craft) Regulations 2001 (S.I. 2001/152) and implement a revised safety inspection regime for ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft.

The draft regulations are being published for 28 days. Following the conclusion of this period, and once any observations on the draft regulations have been taken into account, they will be laid for approval by each House of Parliament. This procedure is required under paragraph 14 of schedule 8 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 because these regulations revoke an instrument, the 2001 regulations, that was made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. Statutory statements explaining the steps taken to publish the draft regulations and the reasons for the revocation of the provision made by section 2(2) are contained in the annex to the draft explanatory memorandum.

The main objective of the draft regulations is to remove duplication among the current inspection regimes applicable to ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft in regular service. Vessels operating on international voyages within the Paris MOU region—the port state control regime we work within—are already subject to priority-based inspections. These will continue to occur at a frequency determined by the level of risk for each vessel.

The draft regulations retain a distinct safety inspection regime for ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger crafts. They provide a level of certainty and expectation to the industry as to when and where their inspections will take place and exactly what will be required. UK-registered ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft visiting EU countries will be subject to inspection by those countries under the European legislation. The draft regulations will provide an inspection regime for ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft consistent with that of the EU, so that the same standards have to be met by all such vessels operating out of the UK, regardless of the route they take.

The draft regulations also include an ambulatory reference provision to ensure that the international conventions referred to in the draft regulations will always be understood to be the most up-to-date versions of such conventions applicable at the time of consideration. As described in the explanatory memorandum, when one of these conventions is to be amended internationally, a ministerial statement will be provided to both Houses of Parliament ahead of the amendment taking effect and coming into force in UK law.

The draft regulations and the accompanying draft explanatory memorandum can be found at: