Legal News | 11.10.23
Changes to Flexible Working in 2024
Following the UK government’s 2019 Manifesto commitment on improving flexible working arrangements for employees, the Flexible Working Bill received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023 and is set to come into force in 2024. The bill will have a fundamental impact on employees’ rights and flexible working arrangements.
What is flexible working and are there any benefits?
In 2019, when Covid-19 was holding the world hostage, in an attempt to improve the labour market and encourage economic growth the UK government made a pledge to encourage flexible working arrangements. Flexible working is a broad term that is intended to allow each individual employee to be able to access a way of working that suits their needs. Examples include flexible working hours, a different location, and the ability to work part-time.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found in 2022, six percent of employees changed their job due to a lack of flexible working arrangements and even more astonishingly 12 percent of employees changed their profession altogether due to a lack of flexibility.
Under current law, employees are able to make one statutory request for flexible working arrangements per year. As part of the request, they are required to provide their employer with an explanation as to what effect the flexible working arrangements would have on the employer and how these effects would be dealt with. Upon receipt of the request, the employer has three months to reach a decision, with no requirement to consult with the employee.
What are the proposed changes?
Employees’ can now make two flexible work requests in any 12-month period. In addition, the onerous obligation on the employee to explain what effects the proposed change has on their employer and what solutions are available to mitigate these effects, is no longer required.
Employees’ can also make a request for flexible working from day one of employment. Currently they are only able to make a flexible working application after 26 weeks of service with the same employer.
The bill increases the obligation on the employer, as the employer will be required to consult each employee before rejecting their flexible working request. In theory this should open up a conversation between employer and employee about exploring alternative options to accommodate the flexible working request.
Employers will also have less time to turn around the request and will need to reach a decision within two months rather than three months.
The intention of the proposed changes is to boost business. With flexible working arrangements in place, the employee pool should increase and will allow employers to attract more talent. A happier workforce is also likely to increase a business’s productivity and make it more competitive.