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Changes to Flexible Working 2023

By Jennifer Marsden-Lambert

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working is simply a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.

So what’s changed?

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has completed its final leg through parliament and received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023. Legislation aims to empower employees providing greater control over their work life balance, wellbeing and to improve workplace flexibility for all.

The act introduces new provisions to enhance the flexible working rights of employees:

  • Two flexible working requests in any 12-month period: Employees have the right to submit up to two flexible working requests within a 12-month period. Previously, employees were entitled to submit one request within a 12-month period.

  • Timely processing of requests: Employers are now required to respond to the flexible working requests within two months unless agreed otherwise. Previously, employers had three months to consider and respond to a request.

  • Consultation with employees: Employers are now obliged to engage in consultation with the employee before request refusal. Although the legislation does not specify a minimum requirement for the consultation process, it emphasises the importance of having meaningful discussions with an employee regarding their request.

  • Elimination of requirement for detailed explanations: Employees don’t have to provide detailed explanations about the possible effects of their flexible working arrangements or how their employer should handle it.

What doesn't the act include?

While the Employee Relations Act 2023 is a huge step in the right direction for employee wellbeing with its balanced work approach, the act does miss out certain elements that were initially expected to be included for example:

  • Still requires 26 weeks of service: The government did suggest its intention to create secondary legislation addressing the 'day 1' right for flexible working, which was thought to be included. However, for the time being, employees will still need to have completed 26 weeks continuous service before they can submit a request.

  • Lack of requirement for right of appeal: The act does not mandate employers to offer a right of appeal if a flexible working request is rejected. While ACAS has recommended such an appeal mechanism, it remains voluntary.

  • Vague guidance on consultation and alternative arrangements: The legislation lacks clarity on the depth of the consultation required before an employer can refuse a request and does not stipulate the need for offering alternative arrangements if the initial request is rejected.

Although the legislation is not yet implemented, it is advisable to familiarise yourself with the new changes as flexible and remote working become the new norm.

Does your Company have flexible working or hybrid working policies in place? These policies ensure that employers and employees understand what is expected of them whilst containing the necessary protections are in place for all.

If you need any help or support putting these policies in place, or would like a review of your existing policies to ensure they are up to date and compliant, then please do get in touch.

About Jen Marsden-Lambert

Jen is the Founder and Director of Second Chapter, and is a Level 7 CIPD-qualified HR generalist with over 10 years' experience in HR leadership roles. She works with clients to improve employee and organisational success through an insight-led, multi-disciplinary approach. She also holds volunteer roles in mental health, community support, environmental conservation, and ending violence against women. She lives in Sheffield with her husband and two cats.

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