FAQs: Changes to the right to request flexible working 2024
Last updated February 2024
Written in collaboration with Gareth Matthews, Head of Employment at MLP Law.
The UK Government has announced important new law changes to the Employee Relations (Flexible Working) Act, set to come into force from 6 April 2024.
It’s BIG news for the HR industry – but we were super surprised to learn that a recent ACAS survey found 7 out of 10 employees (70%) are not aware of the upcoming changes!
So, we spoke to the experts at MLP Law to get all your questions answered on the new flexible work law changes and what it will mean for employers.
What is the right to request to flexible working?
Currently, an employee with at least 26 weeks continuous service, has the statutory right under employment law legislation to make an application or request to their employer to work flexibly. Such a request from an employee can cover asking for a change to their terms and conditions relating to:
- how many hours they are required to work;
- when they are required to work; and/or
- where, as between their home and their employer’s place of business, that work is done.
At the moment, a request of this kind can only be made once in every 12 month period – however that is about to change.
What are the new flexible working law changes?
Changes to the flexible working legislation mean that from 6 April 2024, employees will be able to submit a right to work flexibly request from day one of employment and will also be allowed to submit two flexible working requests in any 12 month period. Finally, employers will be required to respond to requests within two months of receiving them (as opposed to three months, as the law stands now).
Can an employer reject a flexible working request?
As stated by ACAS – “You can only turn down a flexible working request if there’s a valid business reason. It’s important to make your decision based on facts and not personal opinion.”
With this in mind, there are no set changes to the eight grounds upon which an employer can refuse a flexibly working request which are:
- it will cost your business too much;
- you cannot reorganise the work among other staff;
- you cannot recruit more staff;
- there will be a negative effect on quality;
- there will be a negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand;
- there will be a negative effect on performance;
- there’s not enough work for your employee to do when they’ve requested to work; and
- there are planned changes to the business, for example, you intend to reorganise or change the business and think the request will not fit with these plans.
Advice to employers
No doubt, most employers are already familiar with dealing with flexible working requests but these changes should prompt you to update relevant policies and adapt your approach to flexibility in the workplace. Thinking about the potential flexibility of any role at an early stage, even during the advertising and recruitment process, will put employers in a solid position to react to the changes due in April 2024.
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If you would like advice from the Employment Team at MLP Law in relation of any of the issues raised here or more generally, get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or email@example.com