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In December 2022, we discussed flexible working and how it has become increasingly common in the UK since the pandemic. We tend to think of flexible working meaning employees can divide their time between working from home and in the office, but the legislation on flexible working deals with far more than that.

The law includes those who wish to job share, undertake part time hours, request flexitime and/or compress their hours.

The current statutory position

Under the current rules, all employees have a statutory right to request flexible working provided that they have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks.

Once they have made the request, the employer is obliged to deal with it in a “reasonable manner” before making a decision on whether or not to accept it. This decision must be made within 3 months of the request.

The employee is only able to submit one statutory flexible working request per year.

Although there is the potential for employees and employers to agree to mutual changes to their working, outside the statutory process, there is no obligation on employers to consider the request until the employee has 26 weeks of service, meaning there is less flexibility in the first few months of employment.

Even where the service requirement has been reached, the current rules require the employee to set out the effect of their request to the employer, which can prove to be an administrative burden for both sides to consider.

What are the proposed changes to flexible working?

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. Consequently, the Government has advocated that flexible working should be the default position for all businesses.

In support of this, the Government has backed the Private Members Bill entitled Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which would introduce several changes to the area.

The most notable changes would see the following:

  • Employees would have the ability to make a statutory flexible working request from the first day of their employment;
  • 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;
  • There would be a reduction in the amount of time the Employer has to respond to the request, down to two months from three;
  • 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.

If adopted, these changes would mean that thousands more employees will have access to requesting flexible work than under the current legislation. Further, there would be a greater obligations on employers when considering these requests, particularly given the duty to consult.

Although these changes are not currently in effect, the Bill passed its second reading on 28th October 2022 and we may see it becoming incorporated into legislation later in the year.

Speak to our employment law solicitors

If you wish to discuss flexible working policies with our employment law and HR experts, please complete our online enquiry form below or by give us a call and a member of the team will be in touch.

Key Contact

Helen Watson

Helen Watson

Partner | Head of Employment Law

Helen has been Head of the Employment Team at Aaron and Partners LLP for over 16 years and is an experienced Tribunal Advocate, Accredited Mediator and Workplace Investigator. Helen is also a Chartered Director and Executive Boardroom Coach.

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