The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has successfully passed through Parliament. As its title suggests, there are several things it changes in the current flexible working regime.
As the law stands, employees can make a request for ‘flexible working’, such as flexitime, part-time, job sharing, homeworking after being employed for 26 weeks and they are limited to making one request every 12 months. An employee isn’t required to provide a reason for their request.
Employers are required to consider the request for flexible working but not required to grant it. Requests can be rejected for a number of reasons, including :-
- it will cost too much.
- you cannot reorganise the work among other staff.
- you cannot recruit more staff.
- there will be a negative effect on quality.
- there will be a negative effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demand.
- there will be a negative effect on performance.
- there’s not enough work for the employee to do when they’ve requested to work.
- there are planned changes to the business and thinks the request will not fit with these plans.
What will change?
Under the new Act
- employees will now be able to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12 month period.
- any flexible working requests have to be responded to within 2 months of receipt of a request unless the employee agrees to extend this period.
- employers are not able to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee; although what counts as consultation has not been defined and will likely be subject to ACAS guidance.
- Employees will no longer have to explain what effect they think agreeing to the request would have and how any such effect might be dealt with.
As the Bill passed through Parliament, there was discussion of the right to request flexible working being a right from day 1 of employment. This is not included in the current legislation. Whilst the Government has stated an intention to create further legislation to grant the right from day 1, they have not taken any steps to do so yet. As things stand today, the employee still has to wait 26 weeks before such a request can be made.
As this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as several industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.
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