Following the UK government’s 2019 Manifesto commitment on improving flexible working arrangements for employees, the Flexible Working Bill received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023. This means that flexible working will become the default for millions of employees who will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment in 2024.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working really came to the forefront for employees and employers during the Covid-19 pandemic and for many, it’s now standard practice. But flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office, it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found in 2022, six percent of employees changed their job due to a lack of flexible working arrangements.
What are the current arrangements?
Currently, the right to request flexible working legislation supports all employees with 26 weeks continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours and/or working pattern.
What are the new changes?
The UK government states that the new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, and the government hopes it will lead to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to improve the work life balance for employees, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.
The new legislation means the following measures are adopted:
- make the right to request flexible working a day one right;
- introduce a new requirement for employees to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request;
- allow 2 statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one);
- require a decision period of 2 months in respect of a statutory flexible working request (rather than the current three); and
- remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
Employers will also have less time to turn around the request and will need to reach a decision within two months rather than three months.
Why make the changes?
The intention of the proposed changes is to boost business. With flexible working arrangements in place, the government hope it’ll allow employers to attract more talent, from further afield too. A happier workforce is also likely to increase a business’s productivity and make it more competitive.
Some experts have argued the legislation leaves employers open to grievances if they do not follow proper procedures and that this is yet another layer of administration. As with any employment changes, it is important to take advice from experts and it’ll also be worth preparing an updated flexible-working policy which can be released from the date the changes come into force.
If you want any advice and guidance, get in touch with a member of the HR team.