Employment Law Update – The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act

Posted 27/07/2023 : By: Kathryn Knight

Legislation that will improve access to flexible working for employees has completed its way through parliament and has been granted Royal Assent. 

Essentially, the key changes are:

  • employees will be able to make two flexible working requests within a year
  • employers will be required to deal with requests within two months of a request being made
  • employers must consult with the employee if they are turning down a request
  • When making a request, employees no longer have to give an explanation of what the impact of the new working arrangement will have.

Surprisingly, the Act does not make flexible working a Day One right – apparently, this legislation is still in the pipeline. Employees still need to have 26 weeks’ service before they can make a flexible working request.

There is no legal obligation on the employer to offer a right of appeal if the flexible working request is refused. However, it is still considered best practice and the ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working supports this. 

Other points to note

There’s been a global shift and changed attitudes towards flexible working since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, with flexible working and the ability to work from home now very much the norm in most sectors. The Act will bring legislation up to date with today’s society and will likely come into force from 2024.

Flexible working has allowed more employees to improve their work-life balance, and employers have also gained from being an attractive place to work for staff that value flexibility.

A recent report by Hays revealed that more than half (56 per cent) of employees are willing to accept a lower-paid job in exchange for a better work-life balance. It found that a third (33 per cent) of workers consider work-life balance to be the most “crucial consideration” when looking for a job.

Wherever possible, employers should begin to think about how they can introduce more flexibility into their organisation if they haven’t done so already. Employers should also begin to review their policies and procedures on flexible working to ensure that any updates are complete in readiness for when the new regulations come into force.

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