On 5 December 2022, following its Making Flexible Working The Default consultation, which has now concluded, the UK government announced that it will be introducing reforms to the law around employees’ rights to make flexible working requests.
These changes will be introduced via primary and secondary legislation, including the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill which is currently working its way through Parliament. The devil, as always, will be in the detail however the government has committed in full to the following specific reforms:
These changes will no doubt be welcomed by many employees, particular those with childcare or other caring obligations or those with disabilities which affect their ability to work typical full-time hours. These changes make bringing a flexible working request easier and place additional obligations on employers to respond in a timely manner and consult meaningfully before reaching a decision.
Equally however, there have been no changes to the broad remit employers have to refuse such requests. Such refusal can be based on eight factors, which are:
As such, while these reforms may increase the number of flexible working requests that are brought, they may have a limited impact on the success rate of flexible working requests.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, creates a statutory right for qualifying workers to request a more predictable pattern of work. This right works similarly in a few ways to the right to request a more flexible working pattern.
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The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has now completed its journey through parliament and the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 is currently awaiting Royal Assent. What is changing?
Fans of Radio 4’s The Archers will be aware that Brian has sacked Stella as the manager of Home Farm. The background is that Stella spent £150,000 on a new seed drill without Brian’s approval so he has decided to treat the matter as gross misconduct and dismiss her with immediate effect. Stella has taken advice and has been told that she has a good claim of unfair dismissal and possibly sex discrimination too (apparently on the basis that so few farm managers are women). Leaving aside for one moment the fact that The Archers is a work of fiction, does Stella have a claim?