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Employees can request flexible working from their first day

Flexible working rights allow employees to find a way of working that suits their needs, while meeting the needs of their employers, too.

This can involve more flexibility in working hours or work locations – for example, adjusting start and finish times, or working from home part-time or full-time.

Employees have the right to make a flexible working request, known as a statutory application, to their employer – though employers aren’t obligated to approve them.

Previously, employees would have to work for their employer as normal for 26 weeks before being able to make a flexible working request.

However, new changes came into effect on 6th April 2024, allowing all employees to apply for flexible working requirements from their first day of employment.

Changes to flexible working rights

The changes to flexible working applications mean that from April 2024 onwards, employees can make a request for relevant flexible working conditions from the day they begin working for an employer.

Additional changes improving flexible working opportunities for employees include:

  • Allowing 2 requests within a year (previously only 1 request every 12 months)
  • Requiring employers to make a decision within 2 months (formerly 3 months)
  • No longer requiring an employee statement explaining the impact of their request on the business (which was difficult for new employees to fulfil).

If the employer isn’t agreeable to the request right away, they must meet with the employee to consult with them before making a decision to approve or reject it.

Employers must handle flexible working requests in a reasonable manner, considering the advantages and disadvantages and discussing possible variations or trials.

If the employer doesn’t do this, then the employee can appeal against their decision or unreasonable actions at an employment tribunal.

Managing flexible working requests

For an employer to turn down a flexible working application, there must be a valid business reason. There are no changes to the acceptable reasons for rejecting a flexible working request, which include:

  • An unacceptable increase in costs
  • Detrimental effects on employee performance
  • Insufficient workload to accommodate changes
  • Inability to reorganise workloads or schedules around other employees

The code of practice for flexible working requests can be found on the ACAS

If you are an employer, it’s better to have a good policy for flexible working that can help to boost employee wellbeing and motivation, reducing staff turnover and improving the inclusivity of your business.

Depending on changes to working hours and patterns, it’s also important to make sure your admin and payroll departments keep track of employee wages, ensuring you comply with minimum wage and equal pay rules, too.

If your business needs to outsource accounts to make sure your bookkeeping is up to date, gbac can help. Contact our accountants in Barnsley for more information.