Employment Advice

Flexible working requests – changes from April 2024

From 6 April 2024, all employees are entitled to make a flexible working request from day one of their employment.

17 May 2024

Team name
Esther Marshall

Esther Marshall

Previously, only those employees with 26 weeks’ service could make a request. Given this change, it is worth all employers taking the opportunity to refresh themselves as to what flexible working is, and what they need to do when an employee makes a request.

Flexible working is designed to allow employees to change the way they work. This could be a change to the number of hours or days they work, a change to their start or finish times, or to allow working from home. There is no need for the requested change to be linked to a need to provide care for a child or other dependant.

In order to access flexible working, the employee must make a “statutory request”. This just means that the application must be made in writing.

Once an employer has received a request, they must give it “reasonable” consideration. This should include giving genuine thought to the application and whether the employer can accommodate the request. If the request cannot be accommodated, then consideration must be given to whether any alternatives are available.

There is no obligation upon an employer to agree to a request, but if it is to be refused, there must be a genuine reason for the refusal.

A response to a flexible working request must be given within 2 months (or longer if agreed with the employee). The employee should be given the right to appeal against a refusal. It is unlawful to subject an employee to detrimental treatment because they have made a request for flexible working.

ACAS have published an updated Code of Practice for employers on dealing with flexible working requests, which is available here: Code of Practice on requests for flexible working | Acas

M&P Commentary

Esther Marshall, specialist in Employment law, said:

“There are benefits to employers of allowing employees to work flexibly. Valuable staff members who may otherwise leave the business can often be retained if changes can be made to the way in which they work. In addition, goodwill and loyalty can often be generated by accommodating flexible working requests. However, if a request does not align with the needs of the business, and there is no reasonable way of making the changes work, employers are entitled to refuse.

It is good practice for an employer to have a flexible working policy, around which requests can be made and considered. Given the recent changes to the law, employers are advised to make sure that their policies are up to date and fit for purpose.”

A specialist employment solicitor can assist your business both in drafting or reviewing a flexible working policy, as well as assisting with any issues which arise when a request is made.

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