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Flexible Working Requests: New law

Flexible working is a common occurrence in workplaces in the UK now, with many employees job-sharing, working from home, working flexible hours and more.

This seems likely to become even more common, following the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill receiving Royal Assent on 20 July 2023. The Act sets out key changes to the way the law governing Flexible Working Requests operates.

It is important to note, that whilst the Bill has received Royal Assent, section 1, and the accompanying secondary legislation, is not expected to come into force for another year yet, to allow employers time to prepare.

Below, we set out the key changes this law is making, as well as a few basics about flexible working requests for those new to the area.

What are flexible working requests?

A flexible working request is a request that an employee can make to their employer, provided they meet the minimum statutory requirements, to ask for changes to their working patterns. This might be different hours, work from home, job-share, or other adjustments.

So what are the changes?

  1. Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, instead of one.
  2. When making the request, employees will no longer have to explain the affect the request will have on the business.
  3. Employers will have two months to respond instead of three.
  4. Employers will also not be permitted to refuse a request unless they have first consulted with the employee.
Lucy Densham Brown

Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4655

A flexible working request is a request that an employee can make to their employer, provided they meet the minimum statutory requirements, to ask for changes to their working patterns.

What about the day one right?

The headline story when this Bill was announced was that the government were making the right to make a flexible working request a ‘day one right’ meaning employees would not have to wait 26 weeks before they were eligible to make the request. A keen eye will note however, that this is not included in the list of amendments above, and did not make its way into the Act.

However, when announcing that the Act received Royal assent, the government again referred to the ‘day one right’ and confirmed that this would be included in supporting secondary legislation, which will also come into force in a years’ time.

What should employers be doing now?

The government are deliberately allowing a year, to give time for employers to prepare for these changes. So if you are an employer, you should be looking at your Flexible Working Policy, and starting to make the necessary changes. To ensure a smooth transition, it may be worth considering making some of these changes sooner rather than later, so you are keeping up with best practice. If you would like advice on this, or don’t have a flexible working policy in place already, please contact our employment team who would be happy to help.

Further, employers should consider training up the staff who will deal with these requests, so that they are aware of their obligations and the potential risks associated with these requests. For more information on that topic, please see our article ‘Avoiding discrimination in flexible working requests’.

About this article

Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Lucy Densham Brown

Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4655

About this article

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