Everything You Need To Know About The Changes To Flexible Working Requests
Whilst most of us were busy preparing for the festive period, there was an important update from the government on employee rights and flexible working.
On the 5th December 2022, the government announced a range of new measures soon to be introduced with the aim of “making flexible working the default”. The new law will enable employees to request flexible working from day one of employment and be available to all employees. You can view the full government response to the consultation here.
Currently, employees must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 26 weeks before they are entitled to request flexible working arrangements and there are specific statutory requirements that both employers and employees are required to meet as part of the process for dealing with these types of requests. The passing of the new law will not only remove the 26-week restriction but also aims to simplify the process as a whole to encourage more discussions and collaboration between the employer and employee to find the best ways of working.
What will change when the new flexible working measures come into place?
The full list of measurements that the government has agreed to, includes:
- Removal of the 26-week qualifying period before employees are able to request flexible working and implementing from ‘day one’ rights
- A requirement from employers to consult with their employees with the purpose of exploring all available options before rejecting the flexible working request
- Increasing the limit on the number of requests an employee can make for flexible working from 1 to 2 in a 12-month period
- Reduce the time an employer has to respond to flexible working requests from 3 months down to 2 months
- Remove the requirement for employees to outline the effects that their flexible working request might be dealt with by the employer
What difference will this make to employees?
These changes will be fundamental for so many employees in the UK. Millions of people working in Britain will be able to request flexible working once the new law comes into place. A lot of people think that flexible working simply means splitting work between home and an office however, being able to work flexibly could include job-sharing, flexitime or even working compressed or staggered hours.
These new measures will enable employees to have wider access to how, where and when they work which will help employees to have a greater balance between their work and home lives, especially for those who have children or care for sick or vulnerable relatives.
What will this mean for employers?
One of the main benefits for an employer is that these new measures have had proven impacts on employees’ happiness and wellbeing leading to more efficient and productive workers.
Aside from this, the proposal for requiring an employer to consult with an employee about their request encourages open conversations to really understand each other’s needs and requirements. So long as both parties are respectful and embrace the opportunity to find the best solution for all, this will only strengthen the relationship and enforce trust and loyalty on both parts which should help reduce staff turnover and general morale in the workplace.
Business reasons for refusal
Whilst the pre-existing, 8 business reasons that employers can give to refuse requests were discussed as part of the consultation, it was decided that these would all remain in place. Despite a majority of the respondents claiming these to be no longer valid, there was an overall lack of consensus on what they should be replaced with.
The 8 business reasons for refusal, include:
- additional costs that will damage the business
- the work cannot be reassigned to other staff
- people cannot be recruited to cover the work
- flexible working will impact quality and performance
- the business will be unable to meet customer demand
- there isn’t enough work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the current workforce
When will the changes come into force?
Currently, there isn’t a date confirmed. The changes are set to be rolled out when “parliamentary time allows” which should give employers plenty of time to review their flexible working policy or to ensure that there is one in place ahead of the new law coming into effect.
If you’re unsure about the new legislation or need to make changes to your employee policies then our expert team are here to help. Contact the Sittingbourne employment law solicitors at Ratcliffes by calling 01795477505 or completing the online form.