Flexible Working Code of Practice Update

HR, News,

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has released the final draft of a new Code of Practice on requests for flexible working. The draft Code received consultation in 2023 and has now received parliamentary approval, and will come into effect on the 6th April 2024.

Flexible working refers to any working arrangement that meets the needs of the employee and employer on where, when, and how an employee works. This would include part-time work, homeworking, hybrid working, job sharing, compressed hours, term-time working, though this may not be an exhaustive list.

Employers and employees can make informal arrangements, but if an employee makes a statutory request for flexible working, then the Code must be followed.

The new Code introduces a number of new changes. These include:

Right to request change

An employee will now have a statutory right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. Previously they couldn’t do so until they have given 26 weeks of employment service.

Currently an employee can only make one request in any twelve month period. Under the new Code they’ll be able to make two statutory requests in any twelve month period, with a maximum of one being under consideration at any one time.

Handling a request changes

Under current regulations, employers are required to consider a request and can reject it on the basis of a business reason that is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996. The new Code is more positive and specifically states ‘Employers must agree to a flexible working request unless there is a genuine business reason not to’. The business reasons for rejecting a request continue to be those set out in the legislation.

The new Code introduces requirements to prevent discrimination where a request is because an employee is seeking a reasonable adjustment because of a disability.

While the current Code encourages a discussion with the employee, particularly where the employer rejects or wants to modify the request, the new code specifies that unless the employer decides to agree to the employee’s written request in full, they must now consult the employee. The new Code provides guidance on how the meeting should be held and its content.

The new Code requires that a request be confirmed or rejected within a statutory two-month period including any appeal, reducing the current three month period. 

The new Code also specifies that the decision is now confirmed in writing and what this communication should contain. It also sets out appeal procedures.

Until the new Code takes effect, then any statutory requests you receive can still be handled in accordance with the current Code of Practice, which is here.

However, given the new Code is likely to gain significant media interest, it would be a good idea for employers to update their policies urgently, if they haven’t done so already. We’d definitely recommend that you discuss the changes with your HR advisor if you are yet to do so.

You can review the new Code of Practice here.

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