Flexible working: April 2024 changes

Significant changes to the process of flexible working requests are introduced from 6 April 2024.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and associated regulations:

  • make the right to request flexible working a Day 1 right (the 26-week qualification period is removed)
  • allow employees (note not the wider category of workers) to make two (rather than one) flexible working requests in any 12-month period (but there can only be one live application at a time)
  • require employers to consult before refusing a request
  • require employers to make their decision (including any appeal) within two rather than three months (unless an extension is agreed) and
  • remove the requirement that the employee must explain in the statutory request what effect the change would have on the employer and how that might be dealt with

What the Act doesn’t do

  • There is no change to the list of business reasons for rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Whilst the Act requires consultation between employer and employee before a request is rejected, it is silent as to the quality of consultation required. It does not stipulate what the consultation should cover, how long it should last or how it should be conducted. 
  • The Act does not make it a requirement of the process for employers to offer a right of appeal if a flexible working request is rejected (however it is recommended in the ACAS code of practice).

ACAS code of practice

ACAS has published an updated statutory code of practice on handling flexible working requests aimed at addressing the Act’s changes and developments since the original code was published in 2014. It comes into force on 6 April 2024.

The code emphasises the importance of considering requests with an open mind and engaging in meaningful dialogue with employees. Employers are encouraged to explore alternative arrangements and not dismiss requests without proper consideration. The code also recommends extending the categories of individuals who can accompany employees to meetings discussing flexible working requests, providing additional information to explain decisions, and offering an appeal process.