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Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023: What it means for employers and employees

Good news: the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act has received Royal Assent and will likely come into effect in the United Kingdom in Spring 2024.

This Act is set to have a profound impact on both employers and employees, fundamentally changing the way we think about work arrangements. The legislation represents a significant step forward for workplace flexibility, introducing new rights and statutory protections for workers. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Act and explore how it will impact workplaces, employees, and leaders across the country.

What are the changes?

Flexible working is an increasingly important issue in the modern workforce. The pandemic highlighted the need for more flexible working arrangements, and many employees have now come to expect some form of flexibility in their work arrangements. The new Act aims to strengthen the right to request flexible working hours and make it easier for employees to balance work and home life.

In simple terms, the notable changes are:

  • Employees will have the statutory right to request flexible working from day one of their employment, removing the current requirement of 26 weeks’ continuous service.
  • Employees no longer have to submit a business case in support of their flexible working request.
  • Employers must now consult with the employee before making a decision on a flexible working request.
  • Employees can now make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, as opposed to the current limit of one, as long as they are not made concurrently.
  • Employers now have two months to decide, as opposed to the current time of three months.

Another significant change in the new Act is the extension of flexible working rights to all workers, including those in non-traditional roles such as zero-hour contracts and agency work. This extension aims to provide a better work-life balance for workers who may have previously been excluded from flexible working arrangements due to their employment status. With the new flexible working bill in place, workers in all types of employment will have greater control over their working patterns and schedules.

What does the flexible working bill mean for employees?

Under the new Act, employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employer from Day 1. This includes requests for changes to hours of work, patterns of work, or place of work. Additionally, employers are now required to give proper consideration to any flexible working requests they receive, and must provide a written response to statutory requests within two months.

The Act also prohibits employers from discriminating against any workers who make a flexible working request. Employers must take all reasonable steps to accommodate the needs of their employees unless there is an objective justification for not doing so.

These changes are designed to reinforce creating an open dialogue with your employer around your flexible working request and the options available. Previously, employees would be required to put forth a business case to support their flexible working request. Employees could make such a request only once every 12 months, and employers were allowed up to  three months to either approve or decline the request. Now, employees can submit two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, providing they don’t occur concurrently.

The Act means that employers must now be proactive in accommodating their employees’ requests for flexible working arrangements. They have a responsibility to assess requests fairly and make decisions in a reasonable timescale – now two months (reduced from  three months).

What does this mean for employers?

The Act presents some challenges for employers but also offers opportunities for them to create a more effective and productive workplace. With the new changes making it easier for employees to request flexible working arrangements, employers must ensure they are prepared for ,and knowledgeable about, how to manage these requests in a way that is both fair and consistent with their organisational goals.

Employers should also consider how their existing policies need to be adapted to reflect the new legislation. They should consider any potential issues that may arise from employees working flexibly, such as scheduling conflicts or disruption of team cohesion.

It’s important for employers to think carefully about how flexible working arrangements can be made to work for both parties and they should provide support and guidance to their employees around developing an effective arrangement.

Final thoughts

Overall, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act marks a significant shift in the way we approach work arrangements in the UK. The new legislation provides employees with more freedom and flexibility to shape their working lives, while safeguarding their rights and providing statutory protection against discrimination. For employers, it presents an opportunity to rethink how they manage flexible working arrangements and can help create a healthier workplace culture that supports both work-life balance and productivity.

Employers must familiarise themselves with the new legislation and understand how it will affect their working arrangements. Employees who would like to request flexible working should also ensure they’re familiar with the Act before they make their request.

By taking a proactive approach to flexible working, employers can ensure they’re meeting the requirements of the Act and providing their employees with a greater work-life balance. It’s clear that flexible working and the legalities around it are here to stay.

We can all benefit from a more flexible, agile, and responsive workforce with the help of a framework that supports workers while maintaining business interests. By embracing the new legislation, employers can create a more productive and positive workplace, which will ultimately benefit everyone involved.

What are your thoughts on the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 changes?

At CJ. Talent, we are longtime champions of part time and flexible working for all. That’s why we offer comprehensive recruitment support and work with great companies that have embraced flexible  working themselves.

Want to learn more? Contact us today to find out more about our current part time and flexible working opportunities, or how we can help your organisation.

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