Changes to flexible working requests – ACAS draft Code
ACAS has published a new draft Code of Practice on requests for flexible working to provide guidance and help employers and employees understand the changes due to come into force this year. The Code is awaiting Parliamentary approval and, if approved, will come into effect in April 2024.
Changes to requests for flexible working
A statutory request for flexible working is a request for a change to an employee’s hours, times or place of work. This could include, for example, a request to work from home, for hybrid working or part-time working. Changes to the procedure for flexible working requests are anticipated to come into force on 6 April 2024.
The draft Statutory Code
The draft Code reminds employers that from April 2024, every employee will have the right to request flexible working, from the first day of their employment. The employee must make the request in writing and include:
- The date of the request;
- The change that they are requesting in relation to hours, times or place of work,
- The date they would like the change to come into effect; and
- If and when they have made a previous request for flexible working.
An employee will be able to make two requests for flexible working within any 12-month period, but may only have one ‘live’ request for flexible working at any one time.
The employer must handle requests in a reasonable manner and agree to the request unless there is a genuine business reason not to. The reasons to reject a request will be the same as under the current procedure, namely:
- The burden of additional costs
- An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- An inability to recruit additional staff
- A detrimental impact on quality
- A detrimental impact on performance
- A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- Insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work
- Planned structural changes to the employer’s business.
The employer must not reject a request without consulting with the employee and consultation must take place before the employer makes a decision. All requests, including any appeal, must be decided and a decision communicated within a period of two months from the date the employer receives the request. There is no statutory right of appeal against the employer’s decision, although ACAS notes that allowing an employee the right of appeal is good practice.
The draft Code gives guidance on issues including consulting with the employee, what to do if the employee does not attend a meeting, communicating a decision about a request, and handling any appeal.
A survey from ACAS has found that 3 in 10 employers have seen an increase in staff working from home in the last 12 months. The draft Code sets out some of the benefits of flexible working, including helping people to better balance their working lives alongside their personal responsibilities, benefits for health and wellbeing, and improving staff retention and recruitment.
As the draft Code notes, having a clear policy and procedure for handling statutory requests for flexible working can be helpful in making everyone aware of what is expected. Employers should consider reviewing and, if necessary, updating their policies and procedures in readiness for the changes. If you need help with reviewing your polices, contact us.
30 January 2024
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