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Changes to Right to Request Flexible Working

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On 5 December 2022 the government published its response to last year’s “Consultation on Making Flexible Working the Default”. The document is lengthy but set out below are the key measures the government state that they are committing to in full:

  1. The right to request flexible working will become a Day One right (it is currently only available to employees with 26 weeks' continuous service). The government emphasises in its response that this remains a right to request, not a right to have flexible working.
  2. Employees will be allowed to make two requests (previously one request) within a 12 month period, and the response time for employers will reduce to two months (previously three months).
  3. There will be a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request (so that if the employer intends to reject the request, it must discuss whether there are alternative forms of flexible working available).
  4. The procedure for requesting flexible working will be simplified by removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might impact upon the employer.

There will be no change to the list of eight reasons the employer has to refuse a request for flexible working.

Effect of new measures

It is anticipated the new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, leading to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.

Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office – it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

Alongside the clear benefits to employees, there are business advantages to flexible working. The provision of more flexible jobs and workplaces will also help organisations attract and retain a more diverse workforce and working environment, boosting their ability to address skill and labour shortages and potentially improving financial returns.

Please contact Rollits’ employment team if you have any questions about the changes to be implemented and what this means for you as an employee or an employer. As an employer you may also require assistance to amend any policy you have in a staff handbook on flexible working once the above changes are made law and we can assist you with this or prepare such a policy if you do not have one.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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    Written by Ruth Everitt