The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has been granted Royal Assent, meaning that, from 2024, millions of UK employees will have enhanced rights to request flexible working.
Fulfilling a pledge from the 2019 Manifesto to promote flexible working, the new Act requires employers to consider and discuss requests made by their employees – who will be entitled to two requests per year – within two months of the request being submitted (down from the previous three months). The Act does not introduce a “day one” right to request flexible working but it is expected this will happen under additional legislation.
The term “flexible working” encompasses a variety of work patterns including part-time, flexi-time, compressed hours or modified start and end times. It also refers to flexibility regarding an individual’s workplace such as remote working or utilising a satellite office to reduce commute time.
Research by CIPD indicates that, last year, 2 million employees (6%) switched jobs specifically due to insufficient flexible options, while 4 million (12%) exited their profession entirely owing to a lack of flexibility within their industry.
In the lead-up to the 2024 changes, Acas is launching its “Flex at Work” campaign to raise awareness of its existing and soon-to-be-updated resources on flexible working. In particular, the campaign is launched in the lead-up to the updated Acas Code of Practice on managing requests for flexible working under the new legislation.
The Flex at Work campaign reminds employers of the current Acas guidance which covers best practice approach to:
- implementing, initiating and overseeing home and hybrid working arrangements;
- making a flexible working request; and
- appropriately addressing an employee’s request for flexible working in compliance with legal requirements.
Acas’s campaign is a timely reminder for employers to prepare proactively for the approaching changes in 2024. At the very least, policies should align with the Acas Code of Practice on Flexible Working. Given that 71% of employees deem flexible work patterns significant when considering new positions, and 69% regard remote working capabilities as crucial, employers are likely to find it essential that their policies and approach to flexible working are up to date.