New Flexible Working Laws: Key Takeaways

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 14th November 2023

In July 2023, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill reached Royal Assent, but the law won’t change until 2024. 

new-flexible-working-laws

What will the new changes mean for employers (and employees) in the UK? 

What is the new flexible working bill 2023?

As the name suggests, the flexible working bill is all about how employees can go about requesting flexible working arrangements. These new laws coincide with other legislation for employees, including the right to request a predictable work pattern.

When the new laws come into force employees will be able to ask for flexible working from the first day on the job, whereas before they had to wait 26 weeks to make a request. 

Other changes to the law on flexible working mean: 

  • Employers will have to explain why a flexible working request has been denied;

  • Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests per year, instead of one; 

  • Employers have to respond to a flexible working request within two months, instead of three. 

These changes don't mean employers will have to say yes to a flexible working request, however they should still consider them carefully.

What is the current law on flexible working? 

Before we look at what these new laws mean for employers, let’s recap what the current employment laws are for flexible working in the UK. 

Right now, all employees can request flexible working. But they have to: 

  • Have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks; 

  • Be legally classed as an employee;

  • Have not made a separate flexible working request within the last 12 months.

When an employee makes a request, employers must consider it carefully by weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of it, or having conversations with the employee about it. 

Currently, employers can say no to a flexible working request if they have good reason, although they should also offer an appeal process. 

Definition of flexible working

To fully understand the implications of the upcoming changes to flexible working law, employers should be clear on what it is, and what it isn’t. 

In simple terms, flexible working is about giving employees more options for when and where they work.

The ‘when’ could include: 

  • Part-time

  • Term-time 

  • Flexi-time 

  • Compressed hours 

The ‘where’ is all about (you guessed it) location. Yes, working from home but also hybrid working arrangements or making a request to work abroad. 

How will new flexible working laws benefit employees?

New flexible working laws give employees the power to ask for changes in their work start and end times, location, or hours, regardless of how long they have been working for an employer. 

For employees, this could be great for a number of reasons. For example, if employees need to take care of their kids or they’re undertaking a course of study alongside work. Others might live far from the office and want to skip the long commutes. 

In recent years we have seen many benefits to flexible working. Employees are less stressed, they save money, and they have the power to work in a way that suits them - which sometimes leads to them being happier and more focused at work. 

Preparing for new flexible working laws

While the upcoming changes to flexible working requests aren’t revolutionary, employers should take the time to understand the new guidelines and incorporate them into their policies and procedures.

The new laws might also offer a good opportunity for employers to: 

  1. Review and update employment agreements 

  2. Inform and train management on the new rules

  3. Invest in technology to support remote work

  4. Update employees on the upcoming changes and the new rules around flexible work requests

It’s also important for employers to be aware of what might happen if they refuse a flexible working request and how an employee might take action against them. 

Even with current flexible working laws, it’s good practice for an employer to have an appeal process for flexible working decisions. In some cases, if an employee feels the denial of a flexible working request was unreasonable, they can apply to an employment tribunal. Therefore it’s important to make sure your processes: 

  • Meet the deadline for a final decision; 

  • Deals with flexible working requests in a reasonable way;

  • Provide valid reasons for refusing request; 

  • Don’t unfairly discriminate against certain groups of people. 

New flexible working laws are designed to give employees more opportunities to work where, when, and how it works for them. However, this needs to be balanced with the needs of a business. 

Sometimes, arguments can arise between employees and employers about flexible working requests. If they do, working to solve the problem quickly is often cheaper and easier. 

Our employment law specialists can help if you're an employer who needs assistance with employment matters. Get a free case assessment today to find out if you have a case and how much it will cost from our expert legal assessment team. 

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