The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 now awaits Royal Assent after passing its third reading in the House of Lords.
The Flexible Working bill introduces some significant changes to current UK employment law. In this article, we will outline what this means for employers and how they can prepare for flexible working requests within their organisation in readiness for when the bill becomes law.
As it currently stands
Any employee who has worked in an organisation for 26 weeks or longer is entitled to make one formal flexible working request during any 12-month period. The employee must also explain what effect they think the change will make to the employer and how this could be dealt with.
The employer then has 3 months to consider the request before they either accept, reject or agree a variation of the application. Under the Employment Rights Act, employers are permitted to give one of the following reasons if they cannot agree to the request;
- Burden of additional costs
- Inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- Inability to recruit additional staff
- Detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
- Planned structural changes
What are the proposed changes?
Key changes proposed by parliament include;
- Employees will have the right to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period
- Employees will no longer have to explain what effect they think the change will make to the employer and how this could be dealt with
- Employers will be required to deal with the application within 2 months (if no extension is agreed)
- Employers must consult with employees before a flexible working request can be refused, and as part of this must explore alternative options
The proposed changes do not make flexible working a ‘Day 1 right’, and employees still require 26 weeks service before they can make a request. However, the Government has indicated that it will extend the right to all employees through secondary legislation, although there is currently no scheduled date for this.
Preparing for flexible working requests
No date has been set for when the proposed changes will come into force, but it is likely to be some time next year. However, employers are being urged to take steps now, to review their policies and procedures, and ensure that their managers are aware of the changes in this area.
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