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Have your say: new Acas consultation on handling flexible working requests

Acas has recently launched a consultation on its Draft Code of Practice – handling flexible working requests. The updated Code of Practice takes into account changes in working practices since the COVID-19 pandemic and proposed changes to the rules on flexible working (discussed below). It is also planning to update its non-statutory guidance which sits alongside the Code.

The aim of the Code is to provide employers, employees and representatives with a clear explanation of the law on the statutory right to request flexible working, alongside good practice advice on handling requests in a reasonable manner. It also encourages employers to adopt, what it refers to as a 'more positive' approach to flexible working which includes 'fostering an environment in which requests are not rejected by default without open-minded consideration and meaningful dialogue'.

The updated Code:

  • extends the categories of individuals who may accompany an employee at meetings to discuss a flexible working request to correspond to those that apply to disciplinary and grievance hearings;
  • recommends that if an employer rejects an application, it should give the employee 'such additional information as is reasonable' to help the employee understand why it has turned down their request. This means that an employer will need to do more than just cite one of the eight business reasons it is relying on to reject the request; and
  • recommends that an employer should allow the employee to appeal if it rejects their request. 

These changes are uncontroversial, but if you take a different view, you have until 6 September 2023 to respond to the consultation.

Changes to rules on flexible working

Under the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-2 employees will be able to make up to two requests each year and the employer must deal with the application (and any appeal) within two months. Employers will still be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so on the same grounds as currently exist. The government has also said that it intends to legislate to allow employees to request to work flexibly from the first day in the job.

You can read our thoughts about these proposed changes here

When are the new rules coming into force?

The Bill is in its final stages and is likely to become law soon. However, the government will have to introduce separate regulations before these changes come into force and we don't expect that to happen until next year. 

Our agile and flexible working toolkits 

We've designed a practical toolkit to help organisations navigate flexible working requests. This contain precedent policies, precedent contractual clauses, flowcharts, answers to FAQ's and a series of precedent letters to make sure that you comply with the statutory flexible working procedure. Click here to find out how to purchase it and for details of our money back guarantee. 

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We also have a fixed price employment law service. Please contact Gordon Rodham if you'd like to find out how we can help you avoid these sorts of problems with our fixed-fee annual retainer, or flexible discounted bank of hours service.