Employees are set to have more rights in respect of flexible working requests, as the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023.
These long-awaited changes are part of the Government’s drive to encourage flexible working; a broad term including things like working hours or pattern (e.g. part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times) and work location (e.g. from home or a satellite office).
Some of the key changes under the Act are:
- Employers will need to consider and discuss any requests made by an employee, and must consult with the employee before refusing their request. However, there are no set requirements on what this consultation needs to include (and no requirements for the consultation to be substantive or cover the available options).
- Employers will have to deal with requests within two months of receipt (instead of within three months as per the current regime).
- Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period (instead of one request as per the current regime).
- Employees will no longer have to explain what effect the requested change would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
Under the current regime, employees must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment to qualify for the right to request flexible working. Significantly, the Act does not give employees a “day one” right to request flexible working and remove the current requirement of 26 weeks’ continuous employment. However, the Government has confirmed that secondary legislation will be introduced to bring this change.
The Government expects that the measures in the Act and secondary legislation will come into force in approximately a year’s time, to give employers time to prepare for the changes.
Jonathan Mumby comments: “The upcoming changes will provide clear benefits to employees and strengthen their position when it comes to requesting flexible working. Employers will inevitably have to deal with a greater number of, and more frequent, requests, and must ensure that they consult with employees and consider requests properly before opting to reject them. However, the Government believes that the measures will be good for employers, citing research showing that embracing flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation, reduce staff turnover and boost productivity.”
If you have any questions about flexible working requests or the upcoming changes, please contact a member of the team here.
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