Changes to the Law on Flexible Working

Lauren Wilson
Lauren Wilson
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The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has passed through the various legislative stages in Parliament and now awaits Royal Assent before becoming law. The Act makes several changes to the current flexible working regime, which, on the whole, make it easier and more practical for employees to make a flexible working request.

Details of the progress of the Act can be accessed here.

The notable changes to the law on flexible working that the Act will bring into force are detailed below:

  • Employees will now be entitled to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (at the moment, only one request in any 12 months is permitted);
  • The new Act will impose an obligation on employers to consult with employees before refusing a flexible working request. There is, however, no minimum standard of consultation set out in the Act and the new legislation provides no right of appeal under the Act where the request is rejected (although providing a right of appeal is recommended as best practice);
  • Employers will have a duty to give the employee a decision on their flexible working request within two months of receipt if no extension has been agreed between the parties. This replaces the current obligation on employers to provide a decision within three months of receipt;  and
  • The current regime requires employees, in their application, to explain the effects that they consider agreeing to the flexible working request would have on the employer. This will no longer be a requirement.

Despite expecting that the ability to make a flexible working request would become a ‘Day 1 right’, this change has not been introduced by the Act and the Government has advised that this right will be created through secondary legislation. As such, for now, employees will still need to have 26 weeks’ service before being eligible to make a flexible working request.

In light of the anticipated changes, ACAS has launched a consultation on an updated draft of their statutory Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working. We will update you on the ACAS consultation process and the anticipated content of the new Code of Practice in due course.

Royal Assent in respect of the Act is expected to be issued imminently, however, the changes are not expected to come into force until 2024. We will update you once the date is confirmed and will circulate an updated template flexible working policy for your use.

If you would like to discuss flexible working or if we can provide any other support or assistance on any other employment law matters, please do not hesitate to contact any member of our team on 0141 331 5150.

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