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Flexible Working

In December 2022, The Government released plans to make flexible working the default position for employers and employees. 

This involves the introduction of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, the publication of new guidance and a promise of further consultation.

Where do employees and employers stand currently?

In 2014 employees with at least 26 weeks of continuous service were given the legal right to submit a maximum of one request in a 12-month period to change the contractual terms of their employment. 

This could be related to their hours, times and place of work. The employer could then only reject this request should they be able to apply at least one of the eight business reasons for doing so

The eight reasons are"

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality;
  • detrimental impact on performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods that you propose to work; and planned changes.

What changes are being proposed by the new Employment Relations Bill?

The proposed changes are:

  • Employees are given the day-one right to submit a flexible working request. 
  • To prevent employers from rejecting applications without discussing flexible working requests and exploring other options with employees.
  • Increasing the number of flexible working requests in a 12-month period to two.  
  • Reducing the employer response time to two months.
  • The employee will no longer need to explain the potential impact on their employer and suggest ways to mitigate these effects.
  • Raising awareness that the current law does not prohibit an employee from applying for the right to work flexibly for a temporary period only. 

In due course, the government also plans to further call for evidence on how ‘informal flexibility’ (where ad hoc flexible working is permitted without formally changing the employment contract) works in practice.

How have these changes been received?

The proposal has mainly received a favourable response to the ‘day one’. However, there is still a minority that believes it will reduce Productivity. 

How can employers benefit from the new Employment Bill?

Employers can benefit in several ways from flexible working, such as:

  • It could attract a wider pool of candidates.
  • It could support you in retaining talent.
  • It could help reduce costs.
  • It could help you extend your working hours to suit your business needs.
  • It could reduce absenteeism and sickness.
  • Improve a Company’s reputation, showing they are a family friendly employer, for example. 

What are the concerns?

There are also concerns that negotiations to change T&Cs as soon as day one will cause friction between employees and employers. However, the government believes this can be negated by the employer designing job adverts, roles, and the recruitment process to cover flexible working. 

Other concerns for employers may be:

  • Can impact productivity.
  • Increased procrastination.
  • Workplace flexibility often means working from home.
  • Employee monitoring may be challenging.

Flexible working should be considered a positive thing. Still, employers need to fully engage in this type of culture for it to work. They may need to invest in their infrastructure, and Managers may need to review employee performance differently. For example, setting clear targets and goals. 

Should you have any concerns or wish to explore how you can be proactive ahead of the likely change, please get in touch with your HR Advisor. 

If you want a truly personalised service, contact us today to discuss your requirements – call 01427 678 660 or email, and #oneoftheteam will be happy to help.


The information and any commentary contained within these updates are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or any other type of professional advice. Stallard Kane does not accept and, to the extent permitted by law, exclude liability to any person for any loss which may arise from relying upon or otherwise using the information contained in these blogs. If you have a particular query or issue, you are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice about your issue and not to rely solely on the information or comments in these updates.
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