Tayla Baird

Trainee Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 05 Apr 2024 LAST UPDATED: 05 Apr 2024

Changes to Flexible Working Rights : in force 6th April 2024

Some long awaited improvements to the right to request flexible working come into place from 6th April 2024.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will enable millions of workers in the United Kingdom to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working broadly relates to where and when an employee/worker works.  This could include:

  • Part time
  • Term time
  • Flexi-time
  • Annualised hours
  • Compressed hours
  • Adjusted start and finish times

It can also include flexibility in terms of where an employee works, such as working from home, abroad or a satellite office to shorten their commute.

What is the current law?

Under the law in place before 6th April 2024, workers must have been employed for at least 26 weeks before they could make a request for flexible working, they could only make one request per 12 months, and had to fully consider the implications of the request on the workplace.

Enhancements to the law from 6th April 2024

There are a number of enhancements to the new flexible work request legislation, these are:

  1. Employees can request flexible working from their first day in a new job;
  2. An employee can make two written requests for flexible working in any 12 month period;
  3. The employer must respond within 2 months of receipt of the request (previously 3 months);
  4. Removal of existing requirements for an employee to explain what effect the change applied for would have on the employer and how any effects/ consequences might be dealt with. The onus will now be on the employer to consider this.

Process

The following outlines the simple steps in the flexible work request process:

  1. Employee requests flexible working;
  2. Employer makes a decision within 2 months. In order to do so, we recommend inviting the employee to a meeting to discuss the request, the impact on the workplace and the employee;
  3. If the request is accepted, the employer should update the contract or put in place a side letter with updated terms;
  4. It is possible to agree a trial or a compromise. Any such arrangements should be agreed and documented in writing;
  5. If the request is being rejected, it must be for one of 8 prescribed reasons. The outcome should be given to the employee in writing along with the right of appeal. It is paramount to consider an individual’s request on a case-by-case basis, and not adopt a general approach to rejecting flexible work requests as this could amount to unlawful discrimination.

Benefits

Not only are there clear benefits to workers, but these new measures will also be beneficial to businesses. Research has shown that businesses that embrace flexible working can attract a more talented pool of employees and increase staff motivation, which in turn reduces staff turnover and increases staff retention. Business and Trade Minister, Kevin Hollinrake has said:

“A happier workforce means increased productivity, and that’s why we’re backing measures to give people across the UK even more flexibility over where and when they work.”

Practical considerations for employers

There are a number of practical points that employers should be considering as the new law comes into force:

  1. Review – review and update your current policies to ensure that they align with the new regulations. We recommend having a flexible work request policy.
  2. Ensure – ensure that managers/ those members of staff dealing with flexible working requests are able to handle requests effectively in accordance with new regulations. We suggest a short training session for managers.
  3. Embrace – embrace the shift from traditional workplace dynamics, and see this as a positive opportunity for businesses to grow and excel.
  4. Uphold – uphold clear communication with employees. Not all businesses will be able to accommodate flexible working. When recruiting and advertising for job roles it is important for employers to be upfront as to what a company is able to offer, in terms of flexible working, to any prospective employee.

How can Ellis Jones help?

With so many changes on the horizon in the employment law sphere throughout 2024, a careful and practical approach should be taken by employers to ensure that they are adhering to both current and future legislation. If you feel that you would benefit from assistance with updating your policies, navigating the new flexible working legislation and the practical impacts this could have on your business, or any other employment law or HR matter, please do contact us on 01202 525333 or by email at employment@ellisjones.co.uk, one of our team would be very happy to assist you.

 

About the author

Tayla Baird

Tayla is a Trainee Solicitor in our Employment Law department and is based in our London office. To find out more about Tayla’s role and expertise, you can view her profile here.

Kate Brooks

Kate is Partner, Solicitor and Head of Employment Law at Ellis Jones. Kate has a wealth of experience across all areas of Employment Law, to find out more you can visit Kate’s profile here.

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