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More flexibility on flexible working?




The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/1328) remove the current requirement for employees to have at least 26 weeks' continuous service, so that the statutory right to make a flexible working application will become a day one right.

In addition, the new legislation provides for changes to some of the rules on statutory flexible working requests.


What are the main features?

·     Allow employees to make two statutory flexible working requests every 12 months (the current limit is one).

·     Reduce the time limit for employers to deal with statutory flexible working requests from three to two months (although this can be extended by agreement with the employee).

·     Require employers to consult an employee before refusing a request.

·     Remove the need for employees to explain the effect of the proposed change or how that could be dealt with when making a request.

On 12 July 2023, Acas launched a consultation in relation to proposed updates to its code of practice on handling flexible working requests. The new draft code of practice "seeks to encourage a more positive approach to flexible working", and is drafted to reflect ‘significant shifts in ways of working [...] as well as anticipated changes to the law’. The consultation closed on 6 September 2023.


What will this mean for employers?

With the rise of the hybrid working model and businesses' competitive advantage in the labour market, it is more crucial than ever to implement flexible working practices.

 

Employers should:

·     review their flexible working policies to ensure that they reflect the new requirements;

·     train managers on how to handle flexible working requests in light of the new requirements; and

·     plan communications to staff to reflect the changes.

Timetable

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/1328) came into force on 6 April 2024. The new regulations apply to applications made on or after this date.

 

An impact in practice?



The new legislation may not have much of an impact, especially as no minimum level of consultation has been requested. In addition, the new legislation does shift more of the responsibility for handling a request for flexible working to the employer, who will need to demonstrate increased participation and make decisions more quickly. However, the employer’s scope to reject or not an application hasn't altered in any other way.

 

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