What Is the New Flexible Working Bill?

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Tuesday, October 03, 2023

It’s fair to say that life hasn’t exactly been stable these past few years. The need for flexibility, both at work and in life, has become a sticking point for many for obvious reasons. Last May, 39% of UK adults worked from home at some point in the week, and the work-life benefits of doing so are too numerous to mention.

That’s why it’s great to see new rules around flexibility at work coming into effect next year. The simply titled ‘Flexible Working Bill’ was introduced to Parliament in June 2022 and received royal ascent from the House of Lords in July 2023. The bill aims to make it easier for employees to request flexible working arrangements, such as working from home or flexitime. It also aims to protect employees from being discriminated against for requesting flexible working.

But how, exactly?

What does the Flexible Working Bill actually do?

The Flexible Working Bill creates new protections for workers when requesting flexible working conditions. These protections include:

  • Employees must now be consulted by the employer before their request for flexible working is denied;
  • Permission to submit two statutory requests (instead of just one) during any 12-month period;
  • Employers must now respond to flexible working requests within two months (instead of the current three);
  • The removal of the current requirement that employees must describe what impact, if any, the requested change would have on the employer and how that impact could be handled.

As you can see, these are pretty sizable changes that massively benefit the workforce (you can read more about them in the official government press release). But will employers be happy to start putting up ‘Happy To Talk Flexible Working’ posters around the office? After all, failure to follow these new rules can result in huge fines, and won’t this just make life much more difficult?

What employers need to know about the Flexible Working Bill

Flexible working doesn’t have to be a hassle for employers. There are now so many options available to them, like new technology and apps, that having some or even all of their workforce out of the office isn’t a hindrance. 

In fact, when you consider the plethora of studies showing that offering flexible working arrangements means happier, healthier, and more productive staff, it’s usually in their best interests to approve such requests. Failure to grant them might result in notices being put in and difficulty attracting new talent, so they should do what they can to work with their employees.

That being said, even with these new rules coming into play next year, managers don’t have to grant flexible working requests. There will be some situations where this is simply impossible. Still, businesses must make sure they’re following the rules to the letter. As is always the case, transparency and openness are best for both employers and employees when it comes to reaching an amicable arrangement, so negotiate in good faith.