Changes to Flexible Working

The Government has announced a new ‘day one’ right for employees to request flexible working arrangements.  This article looks at the scope of the proposed changes and what these might mean for employees and employers.

What is changing and why?

Following a consultation process, the Government announced on 5 December 2022 that it will be backing a Bill that will change the current flexible working regulations.  The changes include:

-        The right to make a request for flexible working will start from the first day of employment (there is currently a 26 week qualifying period).

-        Employees will have the right to make 2 flexible working requests in a year (rather than 1 a year).

-        Employers will need to consult with employees and respond to a request within 2 months.

-        Employees will no longer have the burden of setting out how the impact of the request may be dealt with by the employer.

Although a lot of businesses have been permitting flexible working arrangements for years, the concept of flexible and hybrid working was significantly accelerated by the global pandemic and the changes that many employers needed to make.  It is now much more credible for employees in various sectors to argue that they can work from home, or work ‘non-standard’ working hours.  Of course, this will pose various issues for employers, including the questions around meeting customer demand and ensuring appropriate supervision. 

There is widespread recognition that flexible working is a positive move; designed to encourage and support more people to be able to enter/remain in the workforce, for example, parents, those with caring responsibilities, and those with disabilities (although this right should not be confused with an employer’s obligation to make reasonable adjustments in certain situations).  The Government’s response acknowledged such benefits and Rishi Sunak stated that this is a “no-brainer”.  The ambition is therefore to support economic growth.

Whether the changes will herald a new era of flexible working, and particularly whether brand new employees will feel able to make a request on their first day of work is yet to be seen. Concerns have been raised by employee campaign groups that the proposals may not go far enough.  In particular, there is no obligation for roles to be advertised as flexible or any requirement for employers to consider requests prior to employment starting. 

Significantly, a new right to demand flexible working is not being created.  Employers will be familiar with the 8 business reasons to reject a request, and these will all remain in place. 

The Government also announced that it will be issuing a call for evidence in relation to how more informal/ad-hoc flexible working requests should be dealt with, as opposed to the formal requests to change contractual working arrangements.

What should I do?

We recommend that businesses take this opportunity to review their current flexible working arrangements and policies to ensure that these will be fit for purpose once the new changes come into effect. 

It is also worthwhile training line managers so that they are able to identify requests and deal with these properly, as well as engaging with them regarding the potential benefits for both the business and individual of having a flexible workforce.  One of the key recommendations is that employers should consult with an employee making a request.  Managers should be supported in this process, and encouraged to start from the point of view of how they can make the request work rather than thinking it would be too difficult to accommodate without fully exploring this.  This will hopefully open up a more diverse workforce and help with retention of key employees which can only be a positive step.

When will the changes take place?

The timescale for the introduction of the changes is not yet clear, and will be when ‘parliamentary time allows’.  Given the numerous other pressing matters currently concerning the Government of the day, we will need to continue to watch this space.

Should you require any assistance or have any queries, Ortolan Legal would be happy to provide further advice.


Ortolan Legal

December 2022

Posted on 01/12/2023 by Ortolan

Get in Touch

If you would like to know more about Ortolan Legal and how we can help you reduce your ongoing recruitment costs, get in touch!

Email us now

   Or call 020 3743 0600

Ortolan Legal have supported us with some very tricky tribunal issues. They are very commercially focussed and truly understand our business. They give really commercial, practical advice which supports our business.

Sharon Eley, Shared Services Director, National Car Parks Limited
See All
Receive news & updates from Ortolan Legal

Meet the Team

  • Nick Benson Nick Benson I qualified as a commercial and corporate solicitor…
  • Liz Delgado Liz Delgado I qualified as a solicitor in 1995 after studying…
  • Carrie Beaumont Carrie Beaumont I qualified as an Employment specialist in 2008. I…