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Flexible working: employer FAQs

Lodders’ expert employment lawyers answer flexible working FAQs.

With new legislation taking effect from 6 April 2024, Damian Kelly, Head of Lodders’ Employment Law team, provides the answers to the most frequently asked questions on flexible working.

What is ‘flexible working’?

Flexible working encompasses various arrangements that grant individuals flexibility regarding the duration, location, and timing of their work. There are many types of flexible working arrangements which suit different circumstances, including:

  1. Part-time working: Decreasing work hours, often by working fewer days per week.
  2. Compressed hours: Completing full-time hours within a condensed timeframe, like a 9-day fortnight.
  3. Flexitime: Selecting work start and end times, typically within a core set of hours, such as 10 am to 4 pm daily.
  4. Job sharing: Sharing one job between two individuals, dividing the workload.
  5. Staggered hours: Having distinct start, finish, and break times compared to colleagues. This may be beneficial for roles where remote work isn’t feasible, but flexibility is desired, such as service or manufacturing.
  6. Hybrid working: Working some of the time remotely and the rest of the time in the physical workplace.

How long does an employee have to work for you before they can request flexible working arrangements?

From 6 April 2024 employees will be able to make formal flexible working requests from day one of their employment.

How should employees request flexible working?

An employee’s request must be in writing and must:

  • Be dated
  • State that it is an application for flexible working under the statutory procedure
  • Specify the change that the employee is seeking and when they wish the change to take effect
  • State whether the employee has previously made an application to the employer and, if so, when

Employees will no longer need to explain to their employer how their proposed working pattern will impact their job or their employer.

What changes can employees request?

Employees can ask to change:

  • The number of hours they work
  • When they start or finish work
  • The days they work
  • Where they work

How soon must employers respond to flexible working requests?

From 6 April 2024 you will need to respond to your employee’s request within two months of the date on which the employee’s request is made.

How should employers respond to requests?

If you agree to the application, you should write to the employee with a statement of the agreed changes and a start date for flexible working. You should also change the employee’s contract to include the new terms and conditions.

It may also be sensible to test the new working pattern using a trial period before a final decision is made.

Find out more about how to handle a request here.

Do employers have to say yes to flexible working requests?

Employers must handle all requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. This includes:

  • Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
  • Holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
  • Offering an appeal process

You are entitled to refuse an application if you have a good business reason for doing so, for instance if the person’s work cannot be reorganised among other staff or if quality or performance will be impacted.

Please note from 6 April 2024 you will be required to consult with an employee before rejecting a flexible working request. You’ll need to show that you have considered alternative arrangements.

If you fail to handle a flexible working request in a reasonable manner, your employee could bring a claim against you.

How many flexible working requests can employees make per year?

From 6 April 2024 employees will be able to make two requests in any twelve-month period. This effectively doubles the previous limit of one request per year.

How we can help

When it comes to employment law, you may find yourself struggling to keep track of legislative changes and the number of flexible working requests your business receives.

If you would like any advice on how the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 affects your business, or guidance on what to include in your flexible working policies to ensure you remain legally compliant, please get in touch.

Contact us

Need more advice?

For help with a legal problem or more information on any of our services at Lodders, please get in touch with our friendly team. You can contact us via the number or email address below, or fill in the form and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.