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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

Did you know flexible working legislation is changing?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Changes will give employees more input over when, where, and how they work.

Flexible working provides employees the opportunity to balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who care for children or vulnerable people.

What flexible working rights are employees currently entitled to?

All employees have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of continuous service and can make one request in every twelve months.

When making a request, an employee must confirm:

  • the date on which they would like to start flexible working

  • the change in their working hours and days they are requesting

  • the effects that they believe their requested change would have on the employer's business

  • how they believe the effects of their change on the employer might be dealt with

Flexible working requests can include job-sharing, flexi-time and working compressed, annualised or staggered hours.

What happens if an employer cannot accommodate a flexible working request?

Although employers do not have to agree to an employee's request for flexible working, they must consider the request fairly.

It is important that an employer considers carefully what they can and cannot accommodate in line with business reason, as an employee can claim unfair dismissal where their request has been refused.

What did the government consultation on changing flexible working find?

The consultation found that:

  • 62% of respondents did not feel the eight reasons for rejecting a flexible working request were still valid (additional cost, unable to reorganise work, unable to recruit someone else to do the work, negative effect on quality, negative effect on performance, negative effect on the ability to meet customer demand, lack of work during the proposed working times and business planning structural changes)

  • 94% supported the need for organisations to consult with the employee before rejecting their request, however, 52% said this would place a burden on the employer

  • 74% supported reform to the number of statutory requests employees could make within a year, and the employer response timeframe.

What do the new flexible working request plans include?

On 5 December 2022 the government published its response to making flexible working the default and confirmed the changes they are looking to make, which include:

  • the right to request flexible working from day one of employment

  • the duty for employers to consult and discuss alternative arrangements when rejecting requests

  • allowing for up to two flexible working requests in every 12 months

  • requiring employers to make a decision within two months of a flexible working request.

  • removing the requirement for the employee to explain what effect their flexible working request would have on their employer and how that effect might be dealt with

The Government said that in its response to the flexible working consultation, 91% of businesses and individuals were in favour of introducing a day-one right to make a flexible working request, which is felt to support, in particular, older workers, those with caring responsibilities and people with health conditions.

"Greater flexibility over where, when and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work." – Minister for small business Kevin Hollinrake

When will changes take place?

The changes will be introduced through primary and secondary legislation "when parliamentary time allows". The Government will also launch a call for evidence to better understand how informal or ad hoc flexible working works in practice.

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