New flexible working laws: what employers need to know

New regulations are set to come into law this April, here is what you need to know

On 6th April, the new flexible working regulations are coming into effect giving employees the right to request flexible working on the first day of employment.  This will apply to any applications made after 6th April. Currently, you need to be employed for a minimum of 26 weeks before making a request for flexible working.

Flexible working is a broad term used to describe any working arrangement that meets both the needs of the employee and the employer. This takes into consideration where, how, and when they work. Examples include their working pattern or hours, whether it’s part time, flexi-time, term time, compressed hours, adjusted start and finish times, job sharing, team-based rostering, and so on.

The new regulations require employers to consult with the employee when they make a request for flexible working before rejecting it. Employers will also need to respond to the request within two months (currently it’s three months).

Employees will be able to make two requests within a 12-month period, whereas today they are only able to make one.

The employee will no longer be required to explain what effect their request will have on the employer or how the impact of their request will be dealt with.

How can employers prepare for the changes?

First, by ensuring your company’s flexible working policies are aligned with the new law. Policies should be consistently communicated to help manage expectations.

There has been a lot of publicity around the new change, therefore employers should anticipate a rise in flexible working requests. Effective processes need to be in place to review and respond to requests in a timely manner.

Establishing clear communication channels that encourage open dialogue will help managers handle these requests effectively and empathetically.  Managers may require upskilling to be able to effectively delegate, enable strong team working, and foster a high-performance environment in teams that may not meet in person regularly.

The changes provide an opportunity for employers to reassess and enhance their operational models, embracing a shift in workplace dynamics which will increase employee engagement and retention.

It is important from the get-go that candidates applying for new jobs can identify companies that can accommodate their working preferences, so that they know if their needs can be accommodated before they accept a new role. When advertising a vacancy, by including the level of flexibility available in ads, employers will have the best chance of finding staff that will genuinely thrive in their roles.

Not all roles are going to be suitable for every request for flexible working. There are 8 statutory reasons for turning a request down. Approaching each request from the point of view of how it can work is a good starting point, but it must also make good business sense. Acas has published an updated statutory code of practice which includes a clear explanation of the law on the right to request flexible working and good practice advice on handling requests reasonably.

We hope you find this information useful. If you would like to discuss your recruitment needs or to speak to one of our team, please do get in touch with us today on 01279 758855.

Posted on Wednesday Mar 20