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08 Dec 2022

Flexible working changes: What do employers need to know?


Employers have been eagerly awaiting the government's response to the flexible working consultation, which has finally landed. Just over a year after the consultation closed, the government has published its response

What is going to change? 

The key changes are:

  1. Right to request flexible working will become a day one right (removing the current 26 weeks' service requirement).Note this is a right to request flexible working, not a right to automatically be entitled to flexible working – that has not changed.
  2. Employers will be required to consult with their employee, as a means of exploring the available options, before rejecting an employee's flexible working request.
  3. Employees will be able to make two requests in any 12 month period, rather than just one request as is currently the case.
  4. Employers will need to respond to the request within a two-month timeframe, rather than the current three-month timeframe, which adds pressure to start the process (e.g., arrange the first meeting shortly after the request comes in).
  5. There will be a removal of the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by the employer.

What are the other areas of interest in the government's response?

  • The consultation asked whether the eight business reasons for refusing a flexible working request remained valid. The Government's response states it will retain the current list of business reasons and not make any changes.
  • The consultation asked whether people were aware that it is possible to make a time-limited flexible working request under the current legislative framework. No changes are being made to this, but the government will issue a "call for evidence" on how less-formalised types of flexibility work in practice. There is no specific timeframe for this call for evidence, but it will be done "in due course".
  • The government will also develop enhanced guidance to raise awareness and understanding of how to make and administer temporary requests for flexible working.

When will the changes take effect?

Unfortunately, it’s a case of wait and see. The government is supporting a Private Member's Bill (the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill) which passed its Second Reading on 28 October 2022. The "day one right" listed above requires secondary legislation which will be introduced "when parliamentary time allows". 

What does this mean for employers?

Once there is a clearer timeframe on when the changes will be implemented, employers should review and update their flexible working policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new framework. They should also consider whether they will communicate to staff about the changes and what it means, as well as train HR staff so they are up to speed on the new regime. Given the reduced time there will be added pressure on employers to consider the request and make a decision.



Paul Reeves

Paul Reeves
Head of employment

T:  +44 20 7809 2916 M:  +44 7919 694 135 Email Paul | Vcard Office:  London

Leanne Raven

Leanne Raven
Senior knowledge lawyer

T:  +44 20 7809 2560 M:  +44 7827 353 108 Email Leanne | Vcard Office:  London