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Flexible working will become the “default” for employees

Flexible working will become the default for millions of employees who will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment in 2024 (following a recent UK Government consultation and Royal Assent of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023).

Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

The UK government states that the new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, and the government hopes it will lead to happier, more productive staff.

Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.

Some experts have argued the legislation leaves employers open to grievances if they do not follow proper procedures and that this is yet another layer of administration. All employers are advised to take steps to prepare an updated flexible-working policy which can be released from the date the changes come into force.

The right to request flexible working legislation currently supports all employees with 26 weeks continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours and/or working pattern.

The new legislation means the following measures are adopted:

  • make the right to request flexible working a day one right;

  • introduce a new requirement for employees to consult with the employee when they intend to reject their flexible working request;

  • allow 2 statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one);

  • require a decision period of 2 months in respect of a statutory flexible working request (rather than the current three); and

  • remove the existing requirement that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.

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