Your evolving rights to flexibility at work

Flexi working

In Law

Written by Law Express Ltd.

For some time now, employees have had an ability to request from their employer changes to their working arrangements allowing them greater flexibility regarding how, when and from where they work. These rights are due to change in Spring 2024 after the Government’s bill The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 (‘the Act’) received Royal Assent.

The primary changes introduced by the Act include:

  • An increase to the number of requests an employee can make. This has increased from one to two requests in any twelve month period. The requests cannot be made concurrently (meaning you cannot raise two requests at the same time to deal with differing flexible working options).  
  • An obligation on the employer to make a decision on the request in two months, rather than the current three month time limit.
  • The employer must consult with the employee prior to rejecting their request. In the Acas draft Code of Practice, it states that during the formal consultation meeting ‘the employer and the employee should carefully consider and discuss any alternative flexible working options that may be available and suitable for both the business and the employee’. Previously, it was only recommended that the employer discuss the request with the employee although they were not obligated to do so.
  • Under the current process, the employee is required to provide an explanation to the employee of how they believe their request might impact the business, and how they believe the impact could be addressed. This requirement is removed under the new Act.

There has been speculation in the media that ‘day one’ rights will be introduced by the Act. This means employees would be able to make a request without having to be employed by the employer for a certain period of time. Unfortunately, the Act does not make these changes. An employee is still required to have 26 weeks service with their employer before they are able to make a request.

Secondary legislation to introduce day one rights is expected once the new Act is in force.

Although the employer must consult before rejecting a request, the statutory grounds for refusing a flexible working request will remain part of the flexible working process. These grounds enable the employer to refuse a request on the follow grounds:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Inability to reorganise work among other staff
  • Cannot recruit others to do the work
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • The Business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • A lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce

Once the Act is in force, you should familiarise yourself with any policy changes your employer may make in response. Your employer’s policy should form the guide to the process the employer intends to follow where an employee makes a flexible working request.

If you have any queries now, or once the legislation is in force, we would welcome you to call our helpline to discuss.