Handling Flexible Working Requests – Navigating the Employment Rights Bill

What Does the New Flexible Working Amendment Mean for Your Business?

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 Act, effective from 6 April 2024, has introduced significant changes:

  • Immediate Eligibility: Employees can now request flexible working from their first day of employment, eliminating the previous 26-week waiting period.
  • Increased Requests: Employees are allowed to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, up from just one.
  • Consultation Requirement: Employers must consult with employees before rejecting a request.
  • Reduced Response Time: Employers now have two months to respond to flexible working requests, down from three months.

Understanding Flexible Working

Flexible working encompasses a variety of arrangements, including:

  • Adjusted Working Hours: Part-time, flexitime, compressed hours, or changes in start and finish times.
  • Remote Working: Changes in the working location, such as working from home.

Steps to Take for Compliance

  1. Review Your Policies: Ensure your flexible working policy aligns with the new regulations.
  2. Establish a Process: Develop a clear process for reviewing and responding to flexible working requests. Train all managers to handle these requests consistently.

Responding to Flexible Working Requests

When an employee makes a request:

  1. Written Request: Ask your employee to submit their request in writing, specifying the changes they wish to make.
  2. Fair Consideration: Evaluate each request impartially. Discuss the request with your employee to understand their perspective, even though they are not obligated to discuss the impact on the business.

Valid Reasons for Denying a Request

You can deny a flexible working request only if one of the following reasons applies:

  • Cost: The change would incur unreasonable costs for the business.
  • Work Redistribution: The work cannot be reorganised among other staff.
  • Recruitment: Additional staff cannot be hired to cover the changes.
  • Quality Impact: The quality of work would suffer.
  • Customer Demand: The ability to meet customer demand would be compromised.
  • Performance Impact: Employee performance would be negatively affected.
  • Insufficient Work: There isn’t enough work during the requested times.
  • Planned Changes: The request doesn’t align with planned business changes.

Finding Compromises

If you can’t fully accommodate the request, explore alternatives:

  • Partial Approval: Agree to some aspects of the request, like working from home part-time.
  • Temporary Changes: Implement a short-term trial instead of a permanent change.
  • Flexible Patterns: Consider alternative work patterns, such as fortnightly schedules.

When Agreement Isn’t Possible

If a request cannot be met:

  • Fair Decision: Base your decision on facts, not personal opinions.
  • Open Communication: Explain the reasons to your employee and explore other potential solutions.
  • Future Options: Discuss future possibilities or adjustments that might work better.

Considerations for Future Hires

Be transparent about your flexible working policy during the hiring process. Clarifying the level of flexibility you offer can help attract and retain employees, reducing turnover.

Embrace the Changing Employment Landscape

Flexible working options can enhance employee wellbeing and attract top talent. By effectively managing flexible working requests, you can create a more supportive and dynamic workplace.

Your employees now have the right to request flexible working from their first day. As an employer, you must handle these requests fairly and provide valid reasons for any denial. If you need assistance in implementing these changes, contact us for an informal chat about how we can support you in adapting to these new regulations.

Get in touch with us here: 01604 261380 or email: info@hausofhr.com.