Employment Law: Updates to Flexible Working Requests | October 2023

Employment Law: Updates to Flexible Working Requests | October 2023

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the popularity of homeworking continues to rise, along with more businesses embracing hybrid working and a four-day working week.

Therefore, it is no surprise that there's been a lot happening in recent months regarding this topic.

Read on for an update on everything you need to know...

On 20th July 2023, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill received Royal Assent to become the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023.

The Act introduced the following measures:

  • Make the statutory right to request flexible working a day one right (i.e., removing the requirement for employees to have at least 26 weeks' continuous service)
  • A new requirement for employers to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request
  • Allow an employee to make two applications (rather than one) for a flexible pattern of work during any 12-month period
  • Require a decision period of two months in respect of a statutory flexible working request (rather than three)
  • Remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with

Following this, also on 20th July 2023, the Government launched a consultation on non-statutory flexible working "seeking views from individuals and businesses on their experiences of non-statutory flexible working and how it operates in practice". The consultation closes on 7th November 2023. It is interesting that this focuses on ‘non-statutory’ flexible working practices.

It is not yet known when the Act or underlying regulations will come into force, although in its press release, the Government states that it "expects the measures in the Act and secondary legislation to come into force approximately a year after Royal Assent, to give employers time to prepare for the changes".

There is also proposed changes to the ACAS code of practice:

On 12 July 2023, Acas launched a consultation in relation to proposed updates to its code of practice on handling flexible working requests. The new draft code of practice "seeks to encourage a more positive approach to flexible working" and is drafted to reflect "significant shifts in ways of working ...as well as anticipated changes to the law." This consultation closed on 6th September 2023.

It is therefore recommended that employers start to explore your flexible working practices (if not already doing so) as potentially greater legislative requirements and flexibility for employees may come into play! Employers are seeing a shift in employees' expectations around flexible working because of the pandemic and this has been a catalyst for legal change too.

NB: This information is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law. However, if you have any HR issues on this or any other HR matters and would like to talk them through with our team, please contact us.

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