Flexible Working Law:
What you Need to Know

 

Flexible Working Law - Flexibility works

A new law on flexible working came into force on April 6, 2024, making it easier and quicker to request flexible working.

All employees have a legal ‘right to request’ flexible working. Employers don’t have to agree to the request but if they refuse, they need to provide one or more of eight ‘permitted business reasons’.

This page outlines workers’  flexible working rights and employers’ legal obligations.

Your flexible working rights

All employees, not just parents and carers, have the right to request flexible working from ‘day one’ ie. your first day with your employer. This is set out in the new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and applies to Scotland, England and Wales. The new law amends previous flexible working legislation set out in sections 80F to 801 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Flexible Working Regulations 2014.

Employees can now make two formal requests, known as statutory requests, in any 12-month period.

Many flexible working arrangements don’t need a statutory request because they are relatively small changes that can be informally agreed with your line manager. For example, if you need a few hours off during the day for an appointment, you’d like to work from home while a tradesperson is in your house, or you’d like to make a small change to your start and finish time, a conversation with your manager may be all that’s required to get the flexibility you need.

If you want to reduce your hours, or make other significant changes to your work pattern such as working part time or from home a set day each week, you will need to make a formal statutory request.

Many flexible working arrangements don’t need a statutory request because they are relatively small changes that can be informally agreed with your line manager.

How to request flexible working

Start by talking to your line manager. Even if you need to submit a formal request, it’s best to have your manager in the loop, and hopefully on your side.
To make formal request for flexible working, you need to:

put the request in writing
include the date
say it is a 'statutory request'
state the change you are asking for
include details of any previous application

Depending on any internal policy, you need to send your request to your line manager, and your employer must give you an answer within two months.

Your employer may invite you to a meeting to discuss your request. Your employer is not allowed to refuse your request without meeting with you first.

Your employer’s policies may give you the right to appeal if they refuse your request. The right to appeal is not expressly granted by law but it’s considered good practice, so most employers allow this. If you feel the decision is wrong or unfair, this should be set out in your appeal. The appeal process is part of the request and therefore the response to the appeal should fall within the two-month time frame.

An Employment Tribunal claim can only be made if your employer does not follow procedural requirements, or a rejection is based on incorrect facts.

However, the law does protect employees from being treated badly by their employer because of a flexible working request, and your employer cannot dismiss you as a result of a flexible working request.

In addition, separate legislation, the Equality Act 2010, protects employees from discrimination. This means it’s illegal for employers to refuse flexible working requests because of discriminatory opinions, such as sexism, racism, or ageism.

If you’d like more detailed information, check out our page on how to ask for flexible working.

 

What are employers’ legal obligations for flexible working?

Under the new flexible working legislation, employers must consider formal requests for flexible working arrangements in a “reasonable manner”. This means that a decision must be given within two months, and the employer must weigh up the benefits for the employee and the business of a new flexible working pattern against any potential business impact.

Employers can refuse requests but they must provide a at least one of eight permitted business reasons, such as that customer service would be negatively affected. Employers cannot refuse requests simply because they don’t like different ways of working.

The new legislation means employers cannot refuse a request without first meeting their employee to discuss the request in full. Updated guidance in the ACAS code of practice sets out more detail, including that the employer should give the employee reasonable notice of the meeting, and that it should be in-person where possible.

 

Legally approved

Specialist employment lawyer, Marianne McJannett, who is Head of Employment at Bellwether Green, kindly checked our content so you can rest assured it’s up to date and legally accurate.

She also had this message for employers: “It’s an incredibly exciting development to see this important piece of legislationcome into force. What we’re seeing with this legislation is a shift in the onus for employers to become more flexible with timelines shortening, and the new ‘day one’ right to request, which did away with the previous need for employees to have been in post for 26 weeks first.

“So many businesses were able to work flexibly during the pandemic when they required staff to work from home or amend their hours, so it’s shown more flexibility is possible. It’s hoped that the spirit of the new legislation will be beneficial to both staff and employers.

“Employers should revise their policies to make sure they’re up to date, and take time to ensure that staff are trained in understanding and handling requests. Businesses should also think about the different types of flexible working that could work for them, and the benefits that flexible working can bring.”

 

Marianne mcJannett - Bellweather Green

Marianne McJannett,
Bellwether Green

Ready to explore how flexible working can benefit your business and your people? Our team of flexible working experts are ready to help

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Go Flex - Flexibility Works

  • Go Flex – Our programme to help you create the flex culture you want. Includes working closely with senior leaders and staff teams, and creating a plan people buy into and that you can follow.
  • Bespoke consultancy – We draw on our vast experience to deliver highly tailored change management support including creating flex for frontline roles, trialling new ways of working, leveraging flex in recruitment and measuring impact.
  • Flexible working policy review – The UK’s law on flexible working changed in April 2024, we’ll help make sure your flexible working policy is up to date.

View all consultancy services

Our Training & Workshops Training - Flexibility Works

  • Flex for line managers half-day workshop – A fast and practical way to support your managers in leading flexible teams effectively, including how to handle flex requests that feel tricky to support, and workers who don’t want to come to the office.
  • Half-day workshop for hybrid teams – Free interactive workshop to boost wellbeing and productivity in hybrid teams.
  • Bespoke training and workshops – Tailored content for your organisation’s specific needs. Always interactive. Can stand-alone or slot into a team day or event.
  • 6 module hybrid training – For managers or whole teams, includes how to communicate and collaborate in a hybrid environment, how to motivate staff and ensure wellbeing.
  • Career returners workshop – For people who’d like to return to work after a career break. We cover workers’ rights around flex, varieties of flex and how to ask for it.

View all training and workshops

Flexible Working Accreditation

Policy Review - Flexibility WorksWe’re developing Scotland’s first good practice standard for flexible working that will provide a supportive framework for employers to increase their flexible offer and showcase their flexible culture.

Learn more now

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Free Resources

Free Flexible Working Resources - Flexibility Works

  • Business case for flex (coming soon) – The hard data you need to convince yourself, or someone else, that flex is good for business
  • Case studies – Stories from employers and workers on how flex works for them.
  • Flexible working for managers and individuals - Our essential guide to all things flex.
  • Working well as a hybrid team (coming soon) – Our series of short videos for teams and/or managers will help hybrid teams work effectively and promote wellbeing.
  • Hybrid working for managers – Our practical guide for managers on how to approach hybrid and manage hybrid teams successfully.
  •  

View all free resources

Testimonials

Testimonials - Flexibility WorksRead testimonials from the businesses and organisations we've supported with flexible working.

Consultancy

  • Go Flex – Our programme to help you create the flex culture you want. Includes working closely with senior leaders and staff teams, and creating a plan people buy into and that you can follow.
  • Bespoke consultancy – We draw on our vast experience to deliver highly tailored change management support including creating flex for frontline roles, trialling new ways of working, leveraging flex in recruitment and measuring impact.
  • Flexible working policy review – The UK’s law on flexible working changed in April 2024, we’ll help make sure your flexible working policy is up to date.

View all consultancy services

Our Training & Workshops

  • Flex for line managers half-day workshop – A fast and practical way to support your managers in leading flexible teams effectively, including how to handle flex requests that feel tricky to support, and workers who don’t want to come to the office.
  • Half-day workshop for hybrid teams – Free interactive workshop to boost wellbeing and productivity in hybrid teams.
  • Bespoke training and workshops – Tailored content for your organisation’s specific needs. Always interactive. Can stand-alone or slot into a team day or event.
  • 6 module hybrid training – For managers or whole teams, includes how to communicate and collaborate in a hybrid environment, how to motivate staff and ensure wellbeing.
  • Career returners workshop – For people who’d like to return to work after a career break. We cover workers’ rights around flex, varieties of flex and how to ask for it.

View all training and workshops

Flexible Working Accreditation

We’re developing Scotland’s first good practice standard for flexible working that will provide a supportive framework for employers to increase their flexible offer and showcase their flexible culture.

Learn more now

  •  

Free Resources

  • Business case for flex (coming soon) – The hard data you need to convince yourself, or someone else, that flex is good for business
  • Case studies – Stories from employers and workers on how flex works for them.
  • Flexible working for managers and individuals - Our essential guide to all things flex.
  • Working well as a hybrid team (coming soon) – Our series of short videos for teams and/or managers will help hybrid teams work effectively and promote wellbeing.
  • Hybrid working for managers – Our practical guide for managers on how to approach hybrid and manage hybrid teams successfully.
  •  

View all free resources

Testimonials

Read testimonials from the businesses and organisations we've supported with flexible working.