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UK Legislation Update – Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023


On 20 July 2023, the long-anticipated Act was granted Royal Assent. The new Act will offer greater liberty to employees as it implicitly recognises the revolution in traditional work patterns. It is expected to come into force in 2024.

Key changes to flexible working

The key changes brought in by the Act are as follows;

  • Employees will have the right to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period instead of one, although they cannot overlap in terms of timing;
  • A request will no longer have to detail the impact the change will have on the organisation: currently requests must do so, which often creates an initial hurdle for employees;
  • An employer will still have an obligation to deal with a request in a reasonable manner but will need to make a decision within 2 months instead of 3, unless an extension is agreed, shortening the current time frame;
  • An employer must consult with the employee prior to rejecting their request, in order to explore alternative options, although it does not detail the form or standard of consultation required. We would suggest that “consultation” is a potentially more involved process than the current requirement simply to have a meeting with the employee to discuss their request.

There will be no changes to the eight grounds an employer can rely on when refusing a request, nor does the Act offer a right to appeal if the request is rejected.

It is important to note that the Act does not make a flexible working request a ‘Day 1 right’ for all employees as initially anticipated and so 26 weeks’ service is still required in order to have the right to make a flexible working request. The Government has indicated that there will still be new measures to change this, but there is no concrete timescale for these.

Guidance for Employers

Employers would be wise to consider updating their flexible working polices to prepare for this Act to come into force.

ACAS has also published a new draft code offering advice and guidance on how employers should handle flexible working requests.

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