New Flexible Working Laws – are you ready?

Posted: 31/10/23

Did you know that significant changes to the flexible working regime are expected next summer?  

As your HR Consultant, we are ready to implement these changes for you. 

As a business owner, this is what you need to know: 

What is flexible working? 

The right to request flexible working allows employees to formally request to change their working hours, location, or patterns. Flexible working laws are designed to give a greater work life balance to employees. Employers can consider these requests and the likely impact on the business.  

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act became law in July 2023, but separate regulations are required to amend the current flexible working regime, and these are likely to come into effect spring/summer 2024.  

What is the current position on flexible working? 

At the moment Flexible Working requests have the following requirements. 

  • An employee must have 26 weeks service 
  • Only 1 request in 12 months can be made 
  • The business has 3 months to consider the request 
  • The onus is on the employee to suggest a working pattern. Businesses can refuse the request for one of eight business grounds.  

The eight business grounds are:  

  • The cost is too high 
  • It is not possible to reorganise the work among other staff 
  • It is not possible to recruit more staff 
  • There will be a negative effect on quality 
  • There will be a negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand 
  • There will be a negative effect on performance 
  • There is not enough work for the employee to do when they have requested to work 
  • There are planned changes to the business and the request will not fit with these plans 

What are the changes to the flexible working laws? 

  • A “day one” right to request flexible working (a change from the current 26 weeks’ service requirement).  
  • A right to make two flexible requests in any 12-month period (a change from the current one permissible request). 
  • A shorter period for employers to respond to a request to two months (from the current three months) 
  • A requirement that the employer consults with the employee about alternative options before they reject any request to work flexibly. 

Factors you need to be aware of: 

  • Be conscious of the new requirement to consult with an employee making a request before the request is rejected.  
  • Consider the good practice recommendations in the ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working with all the above. This Code of Practice is due to be updated in due course following a consultation.  
  • In addition to this, the day one right to make a request and the tighter time frame for considering requests should be kept in mind, particularly for small or medium size businesses who need to plan their resources to meet the new requirements. 
  • As an employer, you will still be allowed to reject a request on one or more of the eight specified business grounds for rejecting a request – these eight business grounds are not likely to change.  
  • It is important to note that there will still be no right to work flexibly, only a right to request to work flexibly. 

Next steps: 

  • Review and update your flexible working policies (and request forms) to reflect these upcoming legal changes, including the requirement to consult 
  • Update your employees on the details of the new flexible working regime. 
  • Provide appropriate training to managers on how to deal with requests. 

As ever, GFHR Consulting is on hand to help with any queries or to support you in making necessary changes to your working practices.  

Your Personal Invitation 

We would like to invite you to GFHR Connect!  

Managing Director, Gemma Farina will be hosting a Power Hour on the Flexible Working changes.   

This is your opportunity to have your specific flexible working questions answered in this one-hour open forum.  

When: Thursday 7th December 2023, 11am-12pm 

Where: Zoom 

How: To register your attendance, please email:  

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