The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has successfully passed through Parliament and is now awaiting Royal Assent.
This act brings some notable changes to the existing flexible working regime in the UK.
What are the changes?
- Firstly, employees will now have the right to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period. This means businesses may receive more requests for flexible working arrangements, requiring them to carefully consider and respond to each request within the specified timeframe.
- Furthermore, employers must respond to a flexible working request within two months of receiving it unless an extension is mutually agreed upon. This provision ensures a timely response to employees’ requests, allowing for more efficient decision-making and reducing unnecessary delays.
- Importantly, employers must now consult with the employee before refusing a flexible working request. While the Act does not specify the exact requirements for this consultation process, it emphasises the importance of engaging in meaningful discussions with employees to explore potential flexible working arrangements.
- Finally, the obligation for employees to explain the anticipated effects of their requested flexible working arrangement and how any potential issues might be resolved has been removed. This change simplifies the process for employees, eliminating the need for detailed justifications and streamlining the request process. Though employees now are not required to consider the impact of their request on operational requirements, employers may reject requests should these requirements be impinged.
What’s not included?
- The Act does not yet grant employees a “Day 1 right” to request flexible working. Employees must currently complete 26 weeks of service before making such a request. The government has indicated that it intends to introduce Day 1 employment rights through secondary legislation, although such legislation has yet to be introduced at this time.
- Administrative burden is reduced because the Act is not mandating employers to provide a right of appeal if a flexible working request is rejected. While the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code of Practice on Flexible Working recommends offering an appeals process, the Act itself does not make it a legal requirement.
- The Act does not establish a minimum standard for consultation with employees or the scope of the options to be considered. The absence of specific requirements leaves room for interpretation, emphasising the importance of employers seeking professional guidance to ensure compliance with their obligations.
Our team of experienced employment lawyers is available to provide expert advice and guidance on the process being taken towards dealing with flexible working arrangements, the factors to be considered and form of response in each case. If you have any questions or require assistance in implementing these changes, please do not hesitate to contact us.