A new bill was recently given Royal Assent which will change the way employers and employees work. Its official title is Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 but is known more usually as the Flexible Working Bill and will come into force next year.

The Bill gives employees greater access to flexibility over where, when and how they work. It also asks employers to make decisions quicker and give reasons why a request might be declined.

Requesting flexible working

Currently, an employee has to be working for an employer for six months before they can make a request for flexible working. In the short term that won’t change as the new law isn’t explicit about this, but it is expected that secondary legislation next year will make it a ‘day one’ right to request flexible working. An employee can also only make one flexible working request in a year and that will increase to two.

Once the request has been made, employers now must make a decision on that request within two months, reduced from three. Should an employer want to decline a request, they must consult with the employee first and must give their reasons for declining.

Up to now, employees had to explain the effects on the employer if their request for flexible working was granted and suggest mitigations for those effects but this requirement has been removed in the new legislation.

Types of flexible working

There are a number of grounds for requesting flexible working including:

  • Reducing working hours to work part-time
  • Making a change to the start and finish time
  • Flexitime – which means having flexibility to start and finish times as long as the set hours are worked over an agreed time i.e. a week or month
  • Compressed hours – where more hours are worked on some days to lead to shorter hours or even a day off at another time
  • Flexibility over location i.e. if some days of the week are done at home
  • Job share

Why might flexible working be a good thing for everyone

As we have seen with the 4 Day Week campaign, new and innovative ways of working are becoming more popular as employees seek a better work/life balance and switch from a ‘live to work’ to a ‘work to live’ mentality.

Employers who offer options for flexible working or make it clear that they are open to a discussion about flexible working often find they are able to recruit more easily and have a more productive and happier workforce.

Flexible working that enables parents, carers or people with disabilities to work also means a workforce that is more diverse and fairer and will enable employers to recruit from a wider talent pool, which will be good for everyone.

It’s going to be a little while yet until the legislation comes into force but employers might want to start thinking about their flexible working policies now and how they might handle requests from employees. As always, if you need any advice regarding the payroll impact of any changes, just get in touch.