Following the recent passage of the Flexible Working Bill into law this summer, UK employees will gain the opportunity to pursue greater flexibility in their work lives starting next year. LCF Law, a prominent law firm based in Bradford, has outlined the crucial details that both employers and employees should be aware of.

As part of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which is anticipated to take effect in 2024 after receiving Royal Assent in July, employees will now possess the entitlement to make two flexible working requests within any 12-month period. Previously, employees were limited to making just one request per annum. Employers will also be required to render decisions within two months of receiving a request, as opposed to the previous three-month timeframe.

Furthermore, there are new obligations for employers to engage in consultations with employees before declining flexible working requests and to provide a rationale for their decision.

Additionally, the previous stipulation mandating employees to elucidate the potential impact of the requested change on the employer, and how such an effect might be managed, has been abolished.

Another noteworthy change may grant workers the right to request flexible working from the outset of a new job, rather than having to wait for a minimum of 26 weeks as per the existing system.

Employment law specialist and LCF Law partner, James Austin, explained: “Largely driven by the pandemic, how many people work has changed hugely in recent years, with flexible and hybrid working becoming the norm for many employers and employees.

“However, this new legislation covers much more than where someone works, whether that’s hybrid, at home or at an alternative location to lessen their commute. It also spans a wide spectrum of circumstances including working hours and whether a person works part-time, term-time or flexi-time. It could also mean adjusting start and finish times to suit the individual.”

James added: “If they haven’t already, employers need to decide on their approach to flexible working requests and have policies in place so that they treat all employees fairly and equally, as well as giving consistent responses, even though every request is unique.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind that these laws don’t require employers to accept every flexible working request, they simply require an explanation of the decision. Ultimately the aim is to make communication, between employers and employees, around flexible working more transparent.

“There will also be benefits of this new legislation for employers that can embrace it, because flexible working can be a great incentive for those that are struggling to recruit in the current market to offer potential employees.

“There’s also lots of evidence that points towards employees that can work flexibly being happier and having a better sense of wellbeing, as well as being more productive, although clearly flexible working won’t work for all organisations or industries.”