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On 20 July 2023 the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill received Royal Assent and when the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 comes into force current legislation will be amended so that:

  • There would be a requirement for the employer to consult with the employee if it is considering rejecting a request;
  • Increasing the amount of requests an employee can make per year from one to two. However, it will not be possible to make a further application while another application to the same employer is already proceeding;
  • There would be a reduction in the amount of time the employer has to respond to the request, down to two months from three (although the parties can agree longer); and
  • The removal of the requirement for employees to indicate how the employer could deal with the effects of the flexible working request on the job they do, other employees, and the business.

Secondary legislation will also be used to remove the requirement that an employee has to be employed for 26 weeks before being able to make a flexible working request, essentially meaning an employee can make a request from the first day of their employment.

The government expects the new legislation to come into force in approximately one year’s time, to give employers time to prepare.

What does this mean for employers?

Once implemented, the “day one” right to request flexible working opens it up to a bigger proportion of the working population, which may result in employers having to deal with an increase in requests.

There would also be a greater obligation on employers when considering these requests given the duty to consult. Whilst some employers may see this as a negative part of the forthcoming changes, it is worth noting that the government has stated that where organisations allow employees some flexibility within their work, it creates a happier and more productive workforce and establishes a better work-life balance. There are clearly potential benefits all round from having a more flexible workforce.

What should employers do?

In order to ensure compliance with the statutory flexible working provisions employers should make sure that they have written procedures in place to ensure that any requests are considered promptly and in a reasonable manner and that the employee is notified of the outcome within the decision period.

Employers should also consider training for management on how to deal with such requests in order to ensure that responses are dealt with fairly and consistently throughout the organisation.

Speak to our employment law solicitors

If you require advice or guidance relating to the changes that will come into force following implementation of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, or you would like to speak to one of our employment law solicitors about a specific matter, please contact our team by completing the enquiry form below.

Key Contact

Jennifer Gibson

Jennifer Gibson

Employment Law Senior Associate Solicitor

Jennifer is a Senior Associate Solicitor and has extensive experience in advising employer clients on a range of day-to-day Human Resources issues.

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