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Millions of workers in the UK will have more flexibility over where and when they work as the Government announces new flexible working legislation which comes into effect on 6 April 2024.

Under this new legislation, employees will have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment.

This is a significant change from current legislation which states that an employee must be employed for 26 weeks or more before being able to request to work flexibly.

Clare Thomas, employment law specialist at B&P talks about the changes and what employers can do to prepare.

Why is flexible working important?

Flexible working is a key tool that employers can use to not only attract new employees, but to improve conditions for current employees. Employers that are more accommodating with workplace flexibility will score high with potential candidates for jobs. Recent research by CIPD suggests that over 50% of employees make this a priority when looking for a new job.

What does flexible working mean?

Under legislation, flexible working is generally anything that’s different than the standard 9-5 hours. Types of flexible working can include:

This list isn’t exhaustive but gives an idea of what’s considered working flexibly in the UK.

What are the changes to the flexible working regulations?

As well as being able to request to work flexibly from day one of employment, there are some other changes coming into effect with the new legislation.

Currently employers can reject a request to work flexibly outright for eight defined reasons. Under the new legislation, employers will need to consult with the employee who’s made the request to discuss alternative arrangements. However, employers must still refer to the eight reasons to refuse a request. We know that not all jobs will be suitable to have working flexibly applied, but all requests must be given full consideration before refusal.

Also, at the moment, employers have three months to make their decision on a flexible working request. Under the new legislation, this will reduce to two months.

Two other significant changes to the legislation are:

How can employers implement the new legislation?

Employers should make sure that their employees are fully aware of the new legislation and what it means for them. There should be open and honest discussions around the topic, with channels available for questions – with answers!

As an employer, you should make sure that requests are actioned in a timely manner and that any necessary equipment to facilitate requests, such as working from home, is available.

Working flexibly benefits the employee and the employer

Not only can working flexibly improve employee well-being and mental health, but it can also have a positive impact on productivity – so it’s a win, win all round!

Employees may use flexible working to reduce the commute or the number of hours they spend at work, and in doing so, gain a better work-life balance. By being flexible, employers will gain a more motivated workforce who will be more loyal to them and in turn become an advocate for the company, which could lead to better recruitment opportunities. There may also be significant cost savings for the business in terms of office or salary costs.

Flexible working – particularly working from home – requires a lot of trust from an employer. But with flexible working looking likely to continue to play an important role in the workplace, it’s worth the investment in getting it right.

Implementing a flexible working policy in the workplace

Before the new legislation comes into effect, employers should ensure that they have the necessary policies in place. Making sure you have all the relevant details included is important, as is communicating about it to your employees.

Getting specialist advice and guidance is recommended – please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to talk through anything regarding these or any other employment law issues.

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