The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill achieved the Royal Assent on 20th July 2023, however the CIPD reports that 49% of business aren’t aware of these pending changes which are proposed to come into effect from 6th April 2024.

With that being said, let’s look into what flexible working requests could look like for employers in 2024 and beyond….

What is flexible working?

If you are an employer looking to attract and retain top talent, having flexible working arrangements in place is essential in today’s market. Following the rise of home working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, flexible working has been widely sought after in the modern workplace in hopes of better work life balance.

Flexible working is a broad term that relates to a change in an employee’s working hours, pattern, or place of work. This also includes flexibility around start and finish times, annualised or compressed hours, term time working, working part time or flexitime and job sharing.

What are the changes to the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023?

Following the Royal Assent of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, employees will have greater flexibility to request a change to their hours or place of work from Spring 2024.

These changes to flexible working request legislation include:

  • Employees have the statutory right to submit two flexible working requests during any 12 month period. The current Flexible Working Regulations 2014 allows employees to submit one flexible working request during any 12 month period.
  • Employees will no longer have to explain in their application what effect, if any, their change in flexible working pattern would have on their role and how they believe this will impact the Company. This is currently the case when submitting a flexible working request.
  • Employers must come to a decision in writing within a two month period of the dated flexible working request. This will reduce the waiting time that employees experience as employers must come to decision within a three month period.
  • Employers must consult with employees before they reject a flexible working request. Under the existing legislation employers are not required to consult with employees and can only reject a flexible working request if there is a valid business reason.

This results in employees having the right to submit a flexible working request from the first day of their employment. At present, employees are required to be continuously employed for 26 weeks to submit a flexible working request.

To summarise:

Proposed changes under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023Current legislation under the Employment Rights Act 1996 / Flexible Working Regulations 2014
Employee can submit a flexible working request application from day one of their employment.

 

Employees must be continuously employed for 26 weeks to submit a flexible working request application.
Employees will be able to submit two flexible working requests in any 12 month period.Employees are only to make one flexible working request in any 12 month period.
Employees will not have to explain the effect the flexible working request might have on the business within their application.Employees must explain what effect, if any, their change in flexible working pattern would have on their role and how they believe how their application will impact the Company.
Employers will have to deal with the flexible working request within two months unless an extension is agreed with the individual.Employers must make a decision within a three month period.
Employers will be required to consult with an employee before a flexible working request is refused.Not in the current legislation.

 

When will the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 come into effect?

The date for your diary for the proposed changes to come into effect is 6th April 2024 following the Government’s announcement of the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 on 11th December 2023. This means any flexible working requests received on or following this date must follow the updated Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023.

The responses to the ACAS consultation on the draft Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working are under review.

How should employers prepare for this?

  1. Implement or update your flexible working policy

Prepare in advance by implementing or updating your flexible working policy in readiness for the proposed changes.

  1. Communicate how your business will manage flexible working requests with your employees

Once you have updated your flexible working policy, communicate any changes to your employees. One way to achieve this is to make your company handbook and policies easily accessible on a HR software for your team to understand how your business will manage flexible working requests.

  1. Promote flexible working in your job adverts

For many candidates flexible working is one of the main requirements they are looking for in their next role according to CIPD research. If you’re an employer that is already embracing flexible working, shout out about this in your job adverts to help your business attract new talent.

  1. Provide training, support and make a plan

Prepare in advance for flexible working requests and new patterns of working by providing line managers with training and guidance on how best to manage their team and flexible working requests moving forwards.

If you are looking for support on managing flexible working or updating your HR documentation please get in touch with the Norton Loxley team. We are here to support you and your Company as your outsourced HR team.