Changes to Flexible Working Legislation

Signing a large book at a desk

Businesses should begin to think about the impact of how new legislation will affect ways of working.

Currently new employees must wait 26 weeks, after their start date, before they are able to make a flexible working request and they can only make 1 request a year.

Forthcoming legislation will allow employees to make requests from the first day of their employment and they can make 2 requests a year.

The changes to legislation, is coming under the Employee Relations (Flexible Working) Bill. The Bill has passed through the House of Commons and is currently with the House of Lords for the second reading. Therefore, it is very likely that this introduction of new laws will be covered in the media and result in increased awareness of employer obligations.

The reason for the change in rules is to ensure that more people in employment can access flexible working to maximise the chances of employees being able to balance work and other commitments like childcare and other family caring responsibilities.

Employers need to be mindful that they could appoint a new employee into a full-time role and on their first day they could hand in a flexible working request. Of course, good employers already recognise the benefits of a flexible working culture.

Small businesses especially find these requests difficult due to the nature of the size of their organisation. Employees have the legal right to make a flexible working request but a business is not legally required to accept it. The typical requests are:

  • Working from home
  • Hybrid working
  • Job sharing
  • Reduced or increased hours
  • Working compressed hours – full time hours across 4 days
  • Working full time hours over a 9-day fortnight
  • Move to term time hours

Employers will need to genuinely consider the request for flexible working. There is a legal requirement to consult with the employee.

The most straightforward way is to hold a meeting to ensure that the employee can fully explain their request. The employer should ask questions to ensure that they understand what the request will mean to the individual and subsequently the business.

This process of consultation needs to be managed and recorded; the future legislation has reduced this consultation period from 3 months to 2 months. It is important employers manage this process correctly and if there is a decision to reject the request, there must be clear fact based reasons.

Managers often find this process difficult and stressful. If you receive a flexible working request, reach out to Guildford HR for an informal discussion so we can share the key considerations for an employer. Guildford HR can also support your managers with handling the process correctly.