Update: New Flexible Working Regulations

What's changing for employers and employees?

The Headlines 

What's happening? As of April 2024, flexible working is undergoing a makeover.  

Why? The New Flexible Working Bill will apply to flexible working applications made on or after the 6th April 2024.  

What's changing?  The Flexible Working Bill introduces amendments to existing legislation, aiming to enhance flexibility for employees in terms of their working arrangements. This includes provisions for a default right to flexible working (employees can now apply from Day 1 of employment), and measures to promote a more inclusive and accommodating work environment. 


The Detail  

The new flexible working bill grants employees the right to request flexible work from day one of employment. 


The Employment Rights Bill (Flexible Working), approved for April 6, 2024, introduces several changes: 


  • Employees can make flexible working requests twice every 12 months (previously once). 
  • Employers must respond to each request within two months (previously two). 
  • If a request is rejected, employers must discuss reasoning and potential impacts with the employee. 
  • Employees no longer need to have 26 weeks' service to request flexible working. 


What does this mean for employers and HR professionals?  

The new legislation places a greater emphasis on employers to actively consider requests for flexible working from employees, shifting the onus onto them to justify any refusals.  


HR professionals - be aware. You're need to ensure policies and processes are compliant with the updated regulations. Be prepared to navigate new challenges - we predict increased demand for flexible working arrangements, which may increase scheduling conflicts and impact productivity levels.  



Could this lead to more discrimination claims? 

Of course, the intentions behind the Flexible Working Bill are positive. Long term sickness is at an all-time high, and with macroeconomic conditions squeezing the working classes more and more each month, it makes sense to try and offer flexibility so more people can work, more of the time.  


But experts are expressing concern that the legislation may inadvertently exacerbate existing inequalities in the workplace. Critics argue that the new regulations could potentially lead to more discrimination claims, particularly if employers fail to adequately address requests for flexible working from certain demographic groups, such as working parents or individuals with disabilities.  


There are apprehensions that biases or stereotypes may influence decision-making processes regarding flexible working arrangements, resulting in disparities in treatment and opportunities for certain employees.  


As a HR professional or employer, you need to be vigilant in monitoring and addressing any instances of discrimination or unfair treatment related to flexible working requests, implementing robust safeguards and training programs to mitigate these risks.  


More resources on this topic  


- "Millions to benefit from new flexible working measures" - Government Press Release 

- "2024 Flexible Working Bill: Everything you need to know" - Michael Page 

- "The law on flexible work is changing - here's what your employer needs to do" - Trades Union Congress