While the legislation has passed in parliament, the law on requesting flexible working hasn’t changed yet and won’t until sometime in 2024, so for now the rules remain the same. Until then, it’s still at the discretion of employers if they want to offer the right to request flexible working from day one of employment.
Flexible working bill becomes an Act
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) bill has received Royal Assent, meaning millions of UK workers will have more flexibility over where and when they work from 2024. Workers will benefit from the new measures in the Act when the legislation comes into force, including:
- new requirements for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request
- permission to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one request)
- reduced waiting times for decisions to be made (within which an employer administers the statutory request) from three months to two months
- the removal of existing requirements that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.
Alongside the Act, the UK Government announced that workers will have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job.
When does the ‘day-one right’ to request flexible working start?
The day-one right to request wasn’t made explicit in the Act but the government has been explicit that it will be implemented. It is normal for regulations or secondary legislation to be enacted to bring laws into force.
For the day-one right to request, there are still several processes that need to happen. For example, the statutory Acas code needs to be revised and as of writing that is still out for consultation. The CIPD will be responding to it and is holding a member focus group on it in early September. The Acas code and the day-one regulations are also subject to a ‘negative resolution’ in Parliament, which means they won’t be debated by Members of Parliament (MPs) and Peers but they do need to lay for 21 days to allow Parliament to comment if it wishes to.
So when will all this happen? The government is saying early 2024, which will likely be for both the regulations and for the full provisions in the Act to commence, but ministers haven’t made any firm commitment to a date. Again, that’s perfectly normal when consultations need to be undertaken and because parliamentary timetables can change.
The government is likely to want to introduce the changes in the Act all together and it is good practice for it to adhere to ‘common commencement dates’ (CCDs) to commence legislation that impacts on business. CCDs are two dates per year, one in April and one in October, when new regulations are usually scheduled to come in. These dates are designed to help give greater certainty to businesses over when new regulations will apply.
When you add all those factors together, the earliest date that the day-one right to request is likely to come in is 6 April 2024, but that won’t unfortunately be confirmed until nearer the time. In the meantime, employers can take the initiative to bring the right in sooner, or to start preparing for when the new right will be law, by exploring the CIPD guidance on how to manage flexible working requests.
All said, it’s fantastic news that the Act has passed and the government has confirmed the day-one right to request is on the way. A lot of hard work and campaigning has gone into these changes from a range of organisations, including from our own Flexfrom1st campaign. Huge thanks also have to go to Yasmin Qureshi MP, who introduced the legislation as a Private Members’ bill in the House of Commons.
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