Flexible Working -new legislation

Currently, an employee can make a request to its employer for flexible working, but first needs to have been employed continuously for a period of 26 weeks. New legislation has been introduced that will now make this a “day one” right, and also varies the obligations on employers on receipt of such a request.

The right to request flexible working is increasingly seen as a key aspect of employment. For many employees seeking new work, flexibility is one of the top priorities. There are already legal requirements for employers to consider requests made by employees for flexible working arrangements, but it is therefore no surprise that the government have introduced further legislation to expand this right for employees.

The amendments have been made in two tranches. The first is the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which received Royal Assent in July 2023, which it is currently expected will come into force in April 2024. The Act made a number of changes, but there are two which are of specific significance. First, employees will become entitled to make two separate flexible working requests in any 12 month period, as opposed to previously only being able to make one. The second is that the timescales in which an employer should respond have been reduced, so any response must now be within two months of the request, as opposed to three months.

The second amendment is the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, which will come into force on 6 April 2024. Previously, an employee needed to be employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks before they could make a flexible working request. This will no longer be the case, and employees will instead become entitled to make a request from day one of their employment.

These changes could add significant burdens to employers, particularly given that they could recruit a new employee on agreed terms and that employee could then request flexible working on their first day, which the employer will need to consider. We recommend that all employers have an established process in place to address and respond to any flexible working requests in order to avoid allegations that any request has not been considered properly.

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