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Since the pandemic, flexible working has increased exponentially, whereas in 2016, only 8.7% of roles were advertised as flexible, now 58% of UK businesses currently offer flexible working in some form.
Practically speaking, flexible working could include:
Overall, it’s been reported that flexible working patterns can improve work-life balance, health, and mental wellbeing. Not everyone finds their full potential in an office 9-5, flexible working allows employees to better balance their working lives alongside personal responsibilities and preferences, which benefits employers in promoting a healthy work-life balance.
The new legislation will change the way both employees and employers make a flexible working request and deny one.
Currently, the Employment Rights Act 1996 states that any employee who has worked at a company for 26 weeks or longer is permitted to ask their manager for flexible working once per year.
Under the new legislation, many employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day one of employment and they can make two flexible working requests in any twelve-month period.
Under the current rules the onus is on the employee to “explain what effect, if any, the employee thinks making the change applied for would have on their employer.”
However, the new legislation states that employees will no longer be required to explain how a flexible working request might impact the employer.
For the employer, the changes will mean they must consult with their employees before a flexible working request is turned down, and all requests must be responded to within two months. Employers will still have the right to reject a request, but only if the statutory process is followed.
These changes will have an impact on UK employers, who will have to embrace flexibility once the provisions come into force, or at least provide concrete and legal reasons why a request is unreasonable.
Employers need to take time to fully understand the new rules and how they can be implemented. ACAS has published a draft Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working, updated to include the changes introduced under the Act and to reflect current best practice. This draft offers guidance to employers on how they can approach flexible working under the new regulations.
It’s important to note that an employee could still claim discrimination if their request is denied, so becoming familiar with this Code and the new law is essential.
Our 24/7 365 Legal Assistance Helpline (LAH) is staffed by qualified legal experts who can offer advice on how to best approach the legislation and help our customers understand their rights and responsibilities to employees.
For further information on employment matters, especially on flexible working, Arc Legal’s expert lawyers have created an Employment Guide which can be used as a reference tool.
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