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How Does Flexible Working Affect You?

over 1 year ago

How Does Flexible Working Affect You?

How does Flexible Working affect you?

For many employees, the pandemic gave rise to a new way of working and many who had never thought of working from home were thrown into the deep end, setting up workspaces in the bedroom, hallway or wherever there was space.

Since then, flexible working has become a topic of debate, while employers and employees try to navigate a new way of working. This debate has been further highlighted by the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill (the Flexible Working Bill) having passed the House of Commons and raises questions as to what these changes mean for employers and employees.

Current Provisions

At the moment, employees with more than 26 weeks of service can make a request for flexible working to occur on a permanent basis. Employees can make the request in any 12-month period and can involve any type of flexible working such as:

  1. Hybrid/remote work

  2. Reduction in hours of work

  3. Change to the times of work

  4. Job-sharing

  5. Change in office location

The current legislation protects the employee from suffering detriment (or dismissal) as a result of making that request and it is recommended they consider the relevant guidance on the Acas website, as well as their employer’s policy

After the request is received, the employer has three months to consider the request, and notify the employee of the outcome. Refusal of a request can be given for one of the following eight business reasons:

  1. the burden of additional costs

  2. an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff

  3. an inability to recruit additional staff

  4. a detrimental impact on quality

  5. a detrimental impact on performance

  6. a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand

  7. insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work

  8. a planned structural change to your business

If a request is refused, the employee should have the right to appeal.


Upcoming changes

The government published its response to the conference Making flexible working the default in December 2022, and committed to supporting the Flexible Working Bill.

The changes of the Flexible Working Bill will:

  • require employers to consult with their employees, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting a flexible working request

  • allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period

  • require employers to respond to requests within two months, down from three

  • remove the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer

Impact on employers

As the Flexible Working Bill still needs to go through the House of Lords, there is no timescale for when the changes will come into effect. Nonetheless, businesses may already be looking into implementing the option for new employees to request flexible working in order to attract the best candidates for vacant roles.

Sectors which have the ability to provide working remotely may already include a hybrid/remote work policy that is already set up for the Flexible Working Bill. It is important to note, however, that these statutory provisions don’t just apply to the location of work, but also to how and what hours are worked by employees, and so any hybrid/remote work policy will supplement rather than replace these statutory provisions.

Also, although flexible working is thought of in the context of those working office jobs, it can be relevant in different fields of work. For example, Marks and Spencer made headlines when they announced a compressed-hour option for managers, which had the benefit for the stores of increased hours of work, and for the managers of having an extra day off each week or fortnight. Therefore, employers will be thinking creatively to consider what they can do to meet the requirements of the legislation and the needs of their staff.



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