The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, aimed at providing employees with improved access to flexible working options, has successfully navigated through parliament and been granted Royal Assent.
With this new legislation in place, employees now have the right to make up to two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, as opposed to the previous limit of one. Employers are now obliged to respond to these requests within a reasonable two-month timeframe from the date of submission. The bill completed its third reading in parliament on Friday 14 July.
Notably, the Act eliminates the need for employees to elaborate on how granting a flexible working request may impact their role or how potential challenges would be managed. Instead, managers are required to engage in consultations with the staff member before making a decision.
Regarding the day-one right to request flexible working, it was previously under consideration, but the final bill does not explicitly include it. As it stands, employees are still required to have completed 26 weeks of service with their employer before being eligible to make a flexible working request. However, the government plans to address the day-one request right through separate, secondary legislation, though the specifics of this are yet to be presented.
There is no specific requirement for employers to offer a right of appeal but it is recommended in the ACAS Code of Practice. There is also no minimum requirement of the quality of the consultation process.
A study conducted by the CIPD in May revealed that 14% of employers had already begun enabling a right to request flexible working from the first day of employment, even before the legislation came into effect. This showcases the growing significance of flexible work arrangements in modern workplaces.
Furthermore, the research highlighted that approximately 4 million workers had changed careers due to a lack of flexibility in their job, underlining the importance of providing employees with more options to achieve a work-life balance. With the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 now in place, it is expected that this situation will see a positive shift, benefiting both employees and employers alike.