Changes to the legislation around flexible working requests have now been confirmed and are due to be implemented imminently. Although no firm date has been given, we recommend that employers start to make the required changes to their policies and procedures.
The main changes are:
- Employees will now be able to make up to two flexible working requests within a 12 month period, rather than one request per year
- Employers have two months to make a decision following a request, rather than 3 currently
- Employees no longer have to explain what the impact of their request might be (on the business and / or colleagues) and how that might be addressed.
- If the employer is not able to agree to the request, they must consult with the employee before coming to their decision.
In our experience, small businesses already adopt a flexible approach and do their best to accommodate requests for different working patterns. We don’t therefore see the changes having a major impact on how many businesses work, but it is certainly something to be aware of and manage appropriately when it occurs.
A further change to legislation is planned (no date yet) that will give employees the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment (currently 26 weeks). While this is not an immediate requirement, employers may want to consider how this will be implemented or even start to consider requests made before 26 weeks of employment.
The right to request flexible working from day one might seem more of a challenge – if you have advertised a role with a certain working pattern it might seem unreasonable for an employee to immediately ask to change this. However, the employer’s right to decline the request due to business needs still remains, you will just need to follow the correct process to consider the request and consult with the employee.
If you would like guidance on dealing with a flexible working request or any aspect of people management, please get in touch – we will continue to update you and are here to help with any specific questions you may have.