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Day one right to request flexible working set for April 2024

Day one right to request flexible working set for April 2024
Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Employees will be able to make a flexible working request on the first day of a new job from 6 April 2024, under an amendment to existing regulations set before Parliament.

Employees who have continuously worked for the same employer for 26 weeks currently have the legal right to request flexible working.

This may include a job share, working part-time, flexitime, work from home or working compressed hours, staggered hours or even a phased retirement.

It isn’t just for parents and carers – all employees can make an application, with employers required to handle a request in a “reasonable manner”.

However, a request can be refused if there is a “good business reason”, according to the Government.

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 seeks to change the terms and conditions of employment in England, Wales and Scotland giving employees a day one right to make a flexible working request.

These changes were laid before Parliament this week and are expected to come into effect from 6 April 2024, meaning a new employee can make a request on or after that date without needing to satisfy the current 26 weeks’ of continuous employment rule.

Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, said further regulations are needed to bring into force other reforms to flexible working requests under the Act.

Palmer said: “These include reducing the current reasonable timeline to deal with requests from three months to two months, removing the requirement for the employee to set out the impact of their requested arrangements and increasing the number of statutory requests permitted per 12 months from one to two. There will also be a new requirement for employers to consult with an employee before refusing a request.

“It is likely that these other changes will align with the removal of the service requirement and come into force on 6 April 2024, but this is yet to be confirmed. ACAS also needs to finalise its updated statutory code of practice on flexible working requests so there are still steps to be taken before all the changes can be implemented.”

Positive change for employees but could cause issue for employers

Palmer added that the change for employees with caring responsibilities or young children, “is sure to be a positive change”.

However, she said employers should be prepared for an increase in the number of flexible working requests they receive from current employees, as well as new employees making requests at the start of their employment.

“If a role is advertised as full time but a new hire immediately requests part time hours, then this could cause issues. It’s likely that employers will find handling the increase in flexible working requests more onerous as they will have less time to respond to them.

“Employers are also required to consult with the employee before they refuse a flexible working request under the new law, which could lead to difficult conversations that need to be carefully managed.

“However, organisations that embrace flexible working at the outset will benefit from the opportunities this can bring and avoid flexible working requests becoming a burden to the business,” she added.

Impact on pay and benefits

Palmer said it is hoped these reforms will help to “break down barriers faced by some groups” in accessing and staying in employment, such as those with childcare or caring responsibilities, and encourage organisations to create more inclusive and diverse working environments.

“We will have to wait to see if this happens in reality once the new law takes effect”.

But for employees considering making a flexible working request, there’s a word of warning from Palmer.

“Is this something your employer is likely to accept? Consider the impact it will have on working hours, workload and capacity, as well as other members of the team. If you’re looking to reduce the number of hours or days worked then there will be implications on your pay and benefits package, as well as holiday entitlement and pension contributions, so consider whether the change will actually be financially viable long-term.

“If, however, your request is to keep the same number of hours per week, just over a different working pattern, then there will not be the same financial implications,” she added.