Employment Law: Request flexible working rights from day one

From 6 April, employees now have the right to request flexible working from their first day at work. However, the right is still only to make a request and employers are under no obligation to approve it.

Flexible working is not just limited to working from home. For example, an older employee may request to gradually reduce their hours as they approach retirement, or those with child or elder care responsibilities may request to vary their hours.

What the changes mean:

The changes that have come in from 6 April 2024 include:

  • Day one request: flexible working can be requested from the first day in a new job (previously 26 weeks employment was required);
  • Two requests: flexible working requests can be made twice within a 12-month period (previously it was one request a year);
  • Two-month decision: employers must decide whether or not to approve a request within two months of receiving a request (previously three months); and
  • No employee statement: employees are no longer required to state the impact of their flexible working request upon the business (previously this was a difficult requirement for new employees).

Unless the employer agrees with the request for flexible working, they must consult with the employee before making a decision. The meeting can be used to explore alternatives or variations to the original request, and maybe consider whether there should be an initial trial period to see how the new arrangements pan out.

Rejecting a request

No changes have been made to the reasons that employers can give to turn down a flexible working request, although a valid business reason is required. Some of those reasons could be, for example:

  • unacceptable additional costs due to a request;
  • it’s not possible to re-organise work among other employees;
  • detrimental impact on performance while working from home; or
  • insufficient work to accommodate a change in an employee’s working pattern.

The latest Acas code of practice on requests for flexible working can be found on their website: https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-on-flexible-working-requests/html

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

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