Easier to ask for flex, thanks to new law
Flexible Legislation Updates - Flexibility Works blog
March 25, 2024
March 25, 2024

Asking for flexible working will get easier from April 6 2024 when a new law comes into force making it a ‘day one right’.

It means new legal obligations for employers. But it’s also an opportunity to embrace greater flexible working and unlock benefits for your people and your organisation.

Here’s our handy re-cap of what’s changing, and what employers need to do now.

What’s the new law called?

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, and it applies to Scotland, England and Wales.

Day one right

The headline-grabbing change is the introduction of a ‘day one right’ for workers to request flexible working, meaning people have a legal right to ask for flexible working on their first day with a new employer, and doing away with the previous need to have been in post for 26 weeks first. For clarity, this is an extension of the right to request flex. It’s not a right to work flex, and employers can still say no if there is a good business reason.

In reality, the ‘day one right’ shouldn’t make much difference to employers because if someone needs flexibility, they will secure it before they start a new job, not ask for it when they arrive for their first day. But it’s another step towards normalising flexible working, and we hope it will prompt employers to think about flex when designing and advertising roles, giving people the information they need, when they need it most.

The other changes are:

  • Employees will be able to make two requests for flexible working in any 12-month period. Previously, employees could only make one.
  • Employers will have an obligation to consult with an employee before refusing a request. Previously, this wasn’t required.
  • Employers will need to respond to requests within two months. Previously, the timeframe was three months.
  • There won’t be an obligation on employees to explain how the request will impact the employer. Previously, employees had to include this in their request and provide detail on how this could be dealt with.

What should employers do now?

We’ve detailed some practical tips below. But the most important way employers can ensure they’re ready for the new law is to be open-minded when it comes to flexible working. Flex is good for people’s wellbeing and juggling work with home responsibilities. But it’s also very good for businesses, with proven benefits in recruitment and retention, and reduced sickness absence to name just a few.

1. Update policy documents and guidance

If you have policy documents and guidance on how to handle requests for flexible working, these should be updated to reflect the legal changes. This should include:

  • How to handle secondary requests, which are most likely if a first request has been refused, or hasn’t gone far enough for the employee. Involving different managers to those who decided first time round is good practice.
  • How consultation meetings will be managed. This is the most significant change for employers because they will now have to meet with employees before they are able to refuse a request for flex. New Acas guidance says employers should invite the employee to a meeting, which should be in-person or via video conferencing where possible. The meeting should be held without ‘unreasonable delay’ though the employer should give the employee notice of the meeting so they have time to prepare.

2. Train line managers

Line managers are the first port of call for any workers who want to make a formal request for flex, so make sure your managers are aware of the changes, as well as the benefits flex can bring, so they are well placed to support members of their team. If this is something you need help with, you might like to book our half-day Flex-Forward Bootcamp that we deliver to your managers on your premises. We briefly cover the legal changes then spend longer on the bigger picture – how to manage flexible workers and what the benefits of flex are – so managers are comfortable managing teams that work differently.

3. Design and advertise more flex

More than 8 in 10 Scottish workers have or want flexible working, yet only 1 in 3 job adverts mention flex. Employers can attract a higher quality and quantity of candidates if they are open-minded and creative about what flex is possible in each role, and then state those flex possibilities clearly in job adverts. This will also help people find the flex they need.

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