I was recently providing flexible working advice to a Client who had received a request from one of their employees to change their hours of work. I was asked questions such as, “If they’ve only been here for 5 weeks, do I have to consider the request?”, and, “Can I not just refuse it?”. The answers were ‘yes’ and ‘no’, in that order.

Although the law on Flexible Working changed on 6th April 2024, it is not a surprise we are being asked questions such as these when a recent study by ACAS found that 2 in 5 employers are unaware of the changes.

What is flexible working?

As a recap, an application for flexible working allows employees to request a permanent change to their terms and conditions of employment, such as changes to their hours of work, the times they work or where they work.

Employers could once refuse to consider Flexible Working applications where the employee had not been employed for 26 weeks, but it is now a right all employees have from day one of their employment. The recent changes also allow employees to make two Flexible Working applications in a 12-month period, not just one.

The obligations on employees when making these requests are now far less onerous. An employee only needs to say they are making an application for Flexible Working, set out what changes they are applying for and say when they want them to take effect. The requirement to explain what effect it would have on the business, and how to combat that effect, has been removed.

What are my responsibilities?

Employers, on the other hand, have heightened responsibilities when dealing with applications for Flexible Working under the new law. They are now under a statutory obligation to consult with the employee on their request, and they cannot refuse it until consultation has taken place. The time in which an employer must reply to a Flexible Working application has also been reduced from three months to two months. However, requests for Flexible Working can still be refused for the same reasons as before the changes on 6th April 2024, such as the burden of additional costs or the detrimental effect on meeting customer demand, quality or performance.

How can we help?

At NORi HR and Employment Law, we have a team of experienced HR Advisors who can help business owners understand the new law on Flexible Working, and guide you through the correct process when an application for Flexible Working is made.

If your business would benefit from advice on Flexible Working, or any aspect of HR and Employment Law, please contact our team on 01254 947829, or at support@norihr.co.uk.

See our News page for more advice: www.norihr.co.uk/news

Thomas Fuller

Services Director

NORi HR and Employment Law