We are thrilled to share the exciting news that the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has received Royal Assent, paving the way for significant changes in the current flexible working system. These proposed changes aim to create a more balanced and accommodating work environment for both employers and employees. In this blog post, we will delve into the key aspects of the Act and how it will impact the world of flexible working.
1. Enhanced Consultation Process
One of the most noteworthy changes introduced by the Act is the new requirement for employers to consult with their employees before rejecting their flexible working requests. This provision ensures that employees are given a fair chance to have their requests considered and addressed properly. Under the new legislation, employees will also have the right to make two statutory requests for flexible working within any 12-month period, rather than the current limitation of one request per year. This change grants employees greater flexibility in managing their work-life balance effectively.
2. Faster Decision-Making
In an effort to streamline the process, the Act mandates that employers must now deal with flexible working requests within two months. This is a significant reduction from the previous timeline of three months. The quicker decision-making process will enable employees to receive timely responses to their requests, allowing them to plan their work arrangements more efficiently.
3. Removal of the Explanation Requirement
Gone are the days of employees having to explain the potential effects of their requested changes on employers and how those effects might be managed. The Act eliminates the requirement for employees to provide such explanations, making it easier for employees to seek flexible working arrangements without undue burden.
4. Right to Request Flexible Working from Day One
Though not explicitly covered in the Act, the government plans to implement a regulation that will grant employees the right to request flexible working from the very first day of their employment, removing the previous 26 weeks qualifying service requirement. This progressive step will empower employees to tailor their work schedules according to their needs and preferences right from the start of their employment journey.
5. Acas Consultation on Code of Practice
To support the new legislation, the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (Acas) has issued a consultation on an updated statutory Code of Practice. This Code will serve as guidance for employers on handling flexible working requests in compliance with the Act. Employers are encouraged to participate in the consultation process, which will remain open until 6th September 2023.
Implementation and Preparation
The government expects the Act and its secondary legislation to come into force approximately a year after it received Royal Assent, meaning that implementation is likely to occur in Summer 2024. This lead time allows employers to prepare and adapt to the upcoming changes effectively.
As accountants, we understand the importance of staying up-to-date with changes in employment law that can have implications for businesses. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 represents a major step towards fostering a more flexible and inclusive working environment. It is essential for businesses to proactively review their policies, practices, and procedures to ensure compliance with the new regulations and embrace the benefits that flexible working can bring.