The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has completed its passage through parliament and now awaits Royal Assent. The Act makes amendments to existing laws in relation to the right of employees and other workers to request variations to particular terms and conditions of employment, including working hours, times and locations. Common requested changes include job sharing, working from home, compressed hours, flexitime and staggered hours.

The new law will implement some changes to the current flexible working laws as follows:

  • Employees will now be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.  At present, only one flexible working request can be made in any 12-month period.  This will assist employees with changes in circumstances.

  • Requests have to be dealt with by employers within 2 months of receipt of a request if no extension is agreed.  The current position is 3 months if no extension is agreed.

  • Employers are not able to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee.  However, there is no explanation of what consultation must include.

  • Employees will no longer, in their written application, have to explain what effect the employee considers agreeing to the request would have on the business and how any effect might be dealt with. This will make the process of making a request easier.

The legislation doesn’t make flexible working a ‘Day 1 right’ from commencement of employment. Employees will still need to have 26 week’s service before they can make a request. The Government has indicated that it will create Day 1 employment rights through secondary legislation.

Employees can complain to an Employment Tribunal if an employer:

  • did not handle the request in a ‘reasonable manner’

  • wrongly treated the employee’s application as withdrawn

  • dismissed or treated an employee poorly because of their flexible working request, for example refused a promotion or pay rise

  • rejected an application based on incorrect facts

If you are an employer or employee requiring advice on a flexible working request, contact Farleys’ employment law specialists on 0845 287 0939, by email, or through the online chat below.