Next year, you’ll have a right to be flexible from day one of a new job

First published on 15 December 2023 by Alastair
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Earlier this year, in June, the UK government said it would introduce a right to request flexible working for employees from day one of starting a new job.  At present, you need to have been working for 26 weeks continuously before you have the right to make an application for flexible working.  Even then, the government website notes “that it may take up to 3 months to consider a request - or longer if you agree a longer decision period with your employer.”

The good news is that a few days ago the government published legislation* that we believe will come into force on 6th April next year, ensuring that from that date millions of people have the right (called ‘a day one right’) to make a flexible working application when they begin employment.

In practice, this means flexible working will become the default setting for many of us starting a new job. It’s important not to confuse this with the new, pandemic-related trend towards WFH.  Flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office: it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

According to the government, “the raft of new measures will give employees greater access to flexibility over where, when, and how they work, leading to happier, more productive staff. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.

“Alongside the clear benefits to employees, there is also a strong business case for flexible working. By removing some of the invisible restrictions to jobs, flexible working creates a more diverse working environment and workforce, which studies have shown leads to improved financial returns.”

Finally, I’d also ask you to note that further amendments to the current flexible working process are also planned, such as increasing the permitted number of statutory requests an employee may make in a 12-month period from one to two. Further regulations are needed to bring the remaining changes into force but (at time of writing!) it’s not anticipated there will be any issue with this all going ahead. 

Paul Mollison, M&S Accountancy and Taxation Ltd

*If you want to look it up it goes by the catchy title of Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/1328).

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