- Millions of British workers will have more flexibility over where and when they work as the Flexible Working Bill achieves Royal Assent.
- Workers will have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job, with employers required to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection.
- Follows a wave of wins for workers after a record National Minimum Wage uplift and boosts to employment protections for parents and unpaid carers.
Employees across the UK will be given even more flexibility over where and when they work, as the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill receives Royal Assent.
Delivering on a 2019 Manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working, the Act will require employers to consider and discuss any requests made by their employee - who will have the right to two requests a year - within two months of a request, down from three.
Flexible working is a broad term and can relate to working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times. It can also include flexibility over where someone works, whether that be from home or a satellite office shortening their commute.
As well as clear benefits to workers, the measures are also good for British business. Research has shown companies that embrace flexible working can attract more talent, improve staff motivation and reduce staff turnover – boosting their business’s productivity and competitiveness.
CIPD research shows that 6 percent of employees changed jobs last year specifically due to a lack of flexible options and 12 percent left their profession altogether due to a lack of flexibility within the sector. This represents almost 2 and 4 million workers respectively.
Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake said:
A happier workforce means increased productivity, and that’s why we’re backing measures to give people across the UK even more flexibility over where and when they work.
Not only does flexible working help individuals fit work alongside other commitments – whether it’s the school drop off, studying or caring for vulnerable friends and family – it’s good business sense too, helping firms to attract more talent, increase retention and improve workforce diversity.
I want to thank Yasmin Qureshi MP, and all the campaigners who have helped make this Bill a reality and improved the lives of workers across the UK.
Workers will benefit from the following new protections once in force:
- New requirements for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request.
- Permission to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one request).
- Reduced waiting times for decisions to be made(within which an employer administers the statutory request) from three months to two months.
- The removal of existing requirements that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
Alongside the measures in the Bill, millions of workers will be given the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. This will bring an estimated 2.2 million more employees in scope of the entitlement following a change in regulations.
The Government is also today launching a call for evidence on non-statutory flexible working to improve on knowledge of the extent of flexibility in the labour market. The aim is to increase understanding of the role of informal flexible working in meeting the needs of both employers and employees.
In response to this legislation, Acas will be updating its statutory Code of Practice following a consultation, which was launched on 12 July. The aim of the Code is to provide employers, employees and representatives with a clear explanation of the law on the statutory right to request flexible working, alongside good practice advice on handling requests in a reasonable manner.
Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:
There’s been a global shift and changed attitudes towards flexible working. It has allowed more people to better balance their working lives and employers have also benefitted from being an attractive place to work for staff that value flexibility.
Our new draft Code encourages employers to take a positive approach to flexible working and addresses all the new changes in the Act. We are keen to get views to ensure that it is clear and relevant for the modern workplace.
With new legislation coming into effect, charity Working Families—in partnership with the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce and CIPD—is re-launching its ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ strapline and logo to aid employers in realising the benefits of flexible working from the point of recruitment.
Working Families and the Taskforce have also developed new guidance for employers, outlining the business case for flexible working and offering step-by-step instructions for designing and advertising flexible roles that work for businesses. The initiative will give employers a head start in thinking about how all their roles can be done flexibly.
Chief Executive of Working Families, Jane van Zyl said:
There are millions of parents and carers in the UK who rely on flexible working to enter and stay in employment. It is no longer a perk; for many, it is a necessity. But flexible working isn’t just good for people–it’s also good for business, and good for the economy.
When employers implement flexible working effectively, they reap the benefits: from increased talent attraction and retention to better performance. We’re delighted to re-launch our Happy to Talk Flexible Working logo and strapline to support employers on their journey to creating high-performing, flexible workplaces.
Chief Executive of the CIPD and Chair of the Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce Peter Cheese said:
By using the tagline ‘Happy To Talk Flexible Working’ in job advertisements, employers can open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces. This transparency supports workers to ask for flexibility and helps to normalise the conversation for all groups.
Many organisations are facing the dual challenges of skills shortages and talent retention issues and we know that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems.
Flexible working practices can include options on the hours people work, their working patterns and their location, for example hybrid working. Employers that use a range of approaches can ensure flexible working provision is fair and available to all types of workers regardless of their job or sector.
- The Government is committed to ensuring the UK is the best place in the world to work and grow a business. To do this, we need a strong and flexible labour market, which supports participation and economic growth. The Government has made this clear since announcing its intention to legislate on this and confirming its support of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act.
- We expect the measures in the Act and secondary legislation to come into force approximately a year after Royal Assent, to give employers time to prepare for the changes.
- The measures in the Act will be supported by a statutory Code of Practice. This Code is being developed by Acas and is currently under consultation. Acas provide free, impartial advice to employers and employees on workplace rights, rules and best practice. The Acas consultation on the draft Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working will run for 8 weeks from 12 July 2023 and the closing date for responses is 11.59pm on 6 September 2023. The consultation document and questions are available on the Acas website along with a response form: www.acas.org.uk/flexible-working-code-consultation
- It is important that people respond to the call for evidence in order for us to help shape our approach to flexible working going forward. Follow this link to respond https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/call-for-evidence-non-statutory-flexible-working
- Working Families is the UK’s national charity for working parents and carers. They aim to remove the barriers that people with caring responsibilities face in the workplace. To find out more about Happy to Talk Flexible Working, visit https://workingfamilies.org.uk/httfw
- The CIPD helps organisations thrive by focusing on their people, supporting our economies and societies. It’s the professional body for HR, L&D, OD and all people professionals – experts in people, work and change.