In Summer 2024, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 (the Act) will make changes to the current rights of employees to request flexible working. Employees can already make a ‘Flexible Working Request’ to their employer if they wish to make changes to their contract, such as to their work locations, working patterns and/or working hours.

This right is currently only available to employees with 26 weeks of continuous service and although it has been widely reported that this will become a “day one” right, this aspect of the law has not actually changed although the Government has repeatedly confirmed that it intends to remove the qualifying period. It is therefore widely anticipated that the necessary regulations will be brought into effect.

What are the changes?

  • Employees will be allowed to make two requests within a 12 month period instead of just one, and the response time for employers will be reduced from three to two months.
  • The procedure for requesting flexible working will be simplified by removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might impact upon the employer.
  • Employers will be required to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options. So that if the employer intends to reject the request, it must discuss whether there are alternative forms of flexible working available.
  • There will be no change to the list of eight reasons the employer may use to refuse a request for flexible working, which are:
    • planned structural changes
    • the burden of additional costs
    • quality or standards will suffer
    • they won’t be able to recruit additional staff
    • performance will suffer
    • won’t be able to reorganise work among existing staff
    • will struggle to meet customer demand
    • lack of work during the periods you propose to work

What is the significance for employers and employees?

There continues to be divide in opinion on the benefits of flexible working, particularly where it relates to homeworking and working remotely. For some employers there is still concern about the level of disruption that homeworking could cause to the workplace. Other employers report that more home and hybrid working has increased productivity.

There has been a clear cultural shift since the Covid pandemic and many employers offer considerably more flexibility that the statutory minimum in order to attract and retain employees. Indeed, many employees highlight that flexible working arrangements are key when looking for a new role and employees with flexible arrangements report an increase in job satisfaction. As such, the changes do provide an additional opportunity each year for employees to request flexible working and many employers are happy to accommodate flexible arrangements. It is, however, important that businesses continue to consider whether any legal, tax or immigration issues arise from working remotely.

Want Some Advice in the Flexible Working Area?

If you would like any advice about Flexible-Working from an employer or employee point of view, please do get in touch with me as like most areas of employment law, mediation and consensus is the best route to sort out any disputes. Having the right policy in place before any disputes occur will also be extremely beneficial.

Please contact or call 0118 958 9711.