Flexible Working Changes to Employment Law from 6 April 2024

Wed 3rd Apr 2024

Employment legislation is being updated as of 6 April 2024 and flexible working requests will be included in these changes. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 comes as part of a wave of new employment legislation seeking to improve the working lives of both employers and employees.

Flexible working refers to a way of working that differs from a conventional nine to five in an office, for example. A recent survey estimated that flexible working contributes £37 billion annually to the UK economy. This is influenced by factors such as reduced absences and increased employee retention.

What will the changes to flexible working requests look like for companies going forward? Associate, Steph Marsh, explains…

Employment Law Updates to Flexible Working Requests

The updated legislation regarding flexible working will apply to requests for all types of work patterns. This means that part-time, compressed hours, job-sharing, working from home and more will all be considered.

Previously, it was a requirement to have 26 weeks’ service at a job before you had the right to make a flexible working hours request. However, the new legislation will mean that employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

But what are the further changes and how will this specifically affect employees and employers?

What Employers Need to Know

Many businesses have taken on flexible working conditions since the pandemic. Research has shown that businesses are more attractive to applicants if they offer or accommodate those who wish to work flexibly. CIPD research showed that six percent of employees changed jobs in the last year due to a lack of flexibility, which is approximately two million workers. Employers embracing flexibility could see an increase in their team’s productivity, health and wellbeing and staff retention.

 As of 6 April 2024, employers will have a duty to consult with employees before refusing a flexible working request. There are eight reasons why an employer can refuse a request, which are:

  1. It will cost the business too much.
  2. You cannot distribute the work among the team.
  3. You’re unable to recruit more team members.
  4. It will negatively affect the quality of work or service.
  5. It will affect the business’ ability to meet customer demand.
  6. There will be a negative effect on performance.
  7. There’s not enough work for the employee to do when they’ve requested to work (e.g. weekends or evenings).
  8. There are planned changes to the business and the request doesn’t fit in with the plans.

The second change that employers need to be aware of is that they now only have two months to make a decision. Previously, employers were required to decide within three months of the request being made. So, if an employee brings you a flexible working request on the day of the legislative change (6April 2024), you will have until 6 June 2024.

What Employees Need to Know

Flexible working has proven benefits to many employees. An improved work/life balance is often cited as the most impactful benefit of doing so. It reduces time commuting and allows people to work in a way that is more productive for them.

Previously, employees were only able to make one request for flexible working within any 12-month period. From 6 April 2024, employees will be able to make two flexible working requests.

On top of that, employees will no longer be required to state the impact that their flexible working hours will have on the business, nor how the employer could mitigate it.  Previously, this was a required part of any request made.

Prepare for Flexible Working Request Changes

If you are an employer, your next step should be to review your current flexible working policies to ensure they are up-to-date and in line with the upcoming employment law changes. Prepare for your employees to start making these requests and create a process to manage it.

For employees, familiarise yourselves with the upcoming changes, your rights to request and the length of time your employer has to respond. Ensure you understand the grounds for a request being reasonably refused and seek legal advice if you feel it was discriminatory.

At Coodes, our expert Employment team ensure they are always at the forefront of employment law changes. We can help both employers and employees prepare for the upcoming legislative changes as of 6 April 2024.

Speak to Associate Steph Marsh from our Employment team today or use the contact form on our website for more information.

Wed 3rd Apr 2024

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