The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023

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20 July, 2023

Andrew Halpin

In 2022, the Government committed to making the right to request flexible working a "day 1" right in a bid to give workers a greater say in where, when, and how they work. As a result, they enacted The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 which has recently completed its passage through Parliament and now awaits Royal Assent.

The changes that the Act will bring are as follows:

  • Employees will now be able to make two flexible working requests in a 12 month period - they are currently only able to make one in any 12 month period.
  • Employers will be required to deal with requests within a shorter time period of 2 months, unless an extension is agreed.
  • Employers will also be required to consult with employees before they are able to refuse a request. However, there is no clarification on what constitutes sufficient consultation.
  • Employees will not have to explain the effect that acceptance of their request might have on the business within their application, or how such effect could be minimised.

What won't be changing:

  • The Act will not make the right to request flexible working a "day 1" right, meaning that employees will still be required to have 26 weeks' service before they are eligible to make a request. Instead, the Government have suggested that secondary legislation will be enacted to create "day 1" employment rights.
  • Employers are not required to offer a right of appeal to employees whose request has been rejected, despite this being recommended in the ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working.
  • As mentioned above, there is no clarification on the requirements of consultation.

This Act will bring in several changes to the current flexible working regime. The Government hope that giving employees greater access to flexibility will bring more people into the workforce and ultimately lead to happier, more productive staff. Additionally, it will bring legislation up to date with society which, since Covid, has seen a significant cultural change in many sectors, with flexible working and the ability to work from home becoming the norm.

What does this mean for employers?

Although yet to receive Royal Assent, is it likely that this Act will come into force in 2024. It is therefore crucial that employers are aware of the changes and consider the impact that this might have on their business. All employers should begin to review their policies and procedures relating to flexible working to ensure that any which need updating are ready for when the new regulations come into force.

For more information contact Andrew Halpin in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01772 220239. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Employment & HR department here

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