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On 5th December 2022, the government published its response to the consultation to introduce changes to the rights to flexible working. The response set out the following key changes to the 2014 statutory framework which allowed all employees with 26 weeks continuous service to make a request for flexible working.

Making the right to request flexible working a day one right

Employees will no longer have to accrue 26 weeks continuous service in order to benefit from the right to request flexible working. This will now be extended to all employees from day one of their employment. It should be noted that the response emphasises that the legislation remains a right to request but not a right to have flexible working. Employers will still have control on whether they accept or rejected an employee’s request.

Obligation on employers to consider alternative arrangements

The response shows that the government now supports an approach consistent with the Acas Code of Practice on handling flexible working requests, that is, that employers should discuss a request with the employee if they are considering rejecting it. The consultation between the two parties will be used to explore other available options before completely rejecting the request.

Changes to the administrative process for making a request

With the current legislation, employees can only make one statutory flexible working request in a 12 month and employers have three months in which to respond to the request. The response suggests that the government will implement primary legislation that will allow employees to make two statutory flexible working requests within a 12-month period and employers will then only have two months to respond to the request.

Removing the certain requirements on employee to make request

Currently, when making a flexible working request employees must set out how the employer might deal with the effects of granting their request. The intention is for the procedure to be removed and share the burden of responsibility for the assessment of the impact of a request between both the employer and employee. The government want the two parties to consult each other.

Next steps

At present, there has been no clear time frame given for any of the above changes to the 2014 legislation. However, the government has already committed to supporting a Private Member’s Bill in relation to flexible working, which is currently going through Parliament. Therefore, we can assume that the changes will be made within a reasonable time period.

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If you require legal advice relating to flexible working or any other employment law matter, please get in touch with our team by completing the form below.

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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