Changes to Flexible Working
The Flexible working bill received royal assent on 20 July. This will enhance the existing right for employees to request flexible working arrangements. The Government confirmed that the measures in the Act and secondary legislation are expected to come into force in Summer 2024. Many of our clients have already updated their policies to reflect the pending legislative changes. HR has seen a considerable increase in requests for HR advice on this matter, as well as further support with managing flexible working requests and culture change within some sectors, recognising the benefits of flexible working, such as recruitment and retention.
The summary of changes are:
- Employers will be required to consult with their staff before rejecting a flexible working request. Currently, there is no consultation requirement.
- Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period rather than the current limit of one per year.
- Businesses will be required to respond to flexible working requests within two months. This is shorter than the existing requirement to respond to a request within three months.
- Employees will no longer be required to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
- Employees will have a ‘day one’ right to flexible working, rather than needing at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment to make a request.
Can you turn down a request for Flexible Working?
You can turn down a flexible working request if there is a valid reason to do so. It’s important to do this based on facts, not personal opinion or bias.
By law, you can turn down if:
- Costs too much;
- Can’t reorganise work amongst other staff;
- Can’t recruit more staff;
- There will be a negative impact on quality, business ability to meet customer demand and/or performance;
- There is not enough work for your employee to do when they have requested to work;
- Planned changes to business;
However, do try to find a compromise i.e. temporary changes, working day changes and have constructive regular communication with the employee.
Acas Flexible Working Consultation
The draft code of practice seeks to encourage a more positive approach to flexible working and best practice. A key point will be ensuring that flexible working requests are not rejected by default. One of the changes is an extension of the companion who should be permitted to attend meetings with employees (to include a trade union representative and an official employed by a trade union or work colleague.