Employers’ Guide to the New Flexible Working Law 2024

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Due to the recent changes in the New Flexible Working Law 2024, Elizabeth Watt, a solicitor in our litigation department, shares legal insights for employers on essential considerations for refusal, and potential pitfalls to be aware of.

What is the new  Flexible Working law 2024?

Prior to 6th April 2024 employees could only make one request for flexible working in any 12 month period and had to wait 3 months from the date of the request to find out the decision. They also needed to wait 26 weeks before they were eligible to make the request. That changed on 6th April 2024 as the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 came into force. This allows employees the right to make two flexible working requests in a 12 month period and applies from the first day of employment. Companies need to inform the employee of their decision to the request within two months and must consult with the employee especially in circumstances where they are considering turning down the request.

What is a good reason for a flexible working request?

Flexible working encompasses all sorts of arrangements and is particularly useful for those who are disabled, caring for elderly or disabled relatives or for childcare reasons. Flexible working can include the following:

  1. Part time hours – an employee may need to work part time for childcare reasons or are caring for elderly or disabled relatives;
  2. Hybrid working – an employee may need to work between the office and home;
  3. Staggered hours – an employee may need to alter their working pattern so starting earlier or finishing later;
  4. Remote working – this means working somewhere other than the office premises;
  5. Flexitime – this means having a flexible start and end time although they may still need to work during core hours;
  6. Job sharing – an employee may need to share the hours with another employee for example one could work Monday to Wednesday and the other works Thursday and Friday;
  7. Compressed hours – this means working full time hours spread across fewer days;
  8. Term time working – this means working during term time and not working during school holidays.

How soon can you put in a flexible working request?

An employee no longer needs to wait until they have been employed for 26 weeks but instead can request to work flexibly from the first day of employment. The request needs to be made in writing but the employee no longer needs to state what effects the change could have on their work or the organisation and how they or their employer might deal with them. An employee can also make two requests rather than one in a twelve month period. However, the second request can only be made once the employer makes a decision, the employee withdraws the request, the employee and employer agree an outcome or it has been 2 months since the date of the request.

Guidelines for Employers Responding to Flexible Working Requests

An employer must consider the request and inform the employee of the outcome within 2 months of the request being received. They should also consult which is crucial particularly if they are considering turning down the request.

8 Business Reasons Employers Can Use to Turn Down Flexible Working

  1. it will cost your business too much;
  2. you cannot reorganise the work among other staff;
  3. you cannot recruit more staff;
  4. there will be a negative effect on quality of work;
  5. there will be a negative effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demand;
  6. there will be a negative effect on performance;
  7. there’s not enough work for your employee to do when they’ve requested to work;
  8. there are planned changes to the business, for example, you intend to reorganise or change the business and think the request will not fit with these plans

Considerations When Turning Down a Flexible Working Request

An employee should be mindful of employees who may have a protected characteristic as by turning down the request could lead to a potential claim for discrimination. The protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

3 Top Tips for Employers on Managing Flexible Working Requests

  • Updates to staff handbooks to incorporate the changes to the flexible working laws;
  • Consider any training needs particularly around what employers need to do if they are considering turning down the request;
  • Seek legal advice for guidance on how to deal with a flexible working request.

For expert legal advice and guidance on navigating flexible working or any employment law matters, reach out to WSP Solicitors today. Contact us here or conveniently fill out the enquiry form on this page, or call us at 01453 847200.


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    Man at his laptop smiling: Employers' Guide to the New Flexible Working Law 2024