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Update expected to the Code of Practice on requests for flexible working

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The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has released a final draft of a new Code of Practice on requests for flexible working. The draft Code received consultation in 2023 and is now awaiting parliamentary approval. If it is approved, then the new Code is expected to come into force in April 2024.


Flexible working refers to any working arrangement that meets the needs of the employee and employer on where, when, and how an employee works. This would include part-time work, homeworking, hybrid working, job sharing, compressed hours, term-time working and so on.


Employers and employees can make informal arrangements, but if an employee makes a statutory request for flexible working, then the Code must be followed.


The new Code introduces a number of new changes. These include:


Right to request
An employee will now have a statutory right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. Currently they cannot do so until they have given 26 weeks of employment service.


Currently there is a limit of one request that an employee can make in any 12 month period. However, under the new Code they will be able to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period, with a maximum of one live at any one time.


Handling a request
Currently, employers are required to consider a request and can reject it on the basis of a business reason that is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996. The new Code is more positive and specifically states: “Employers must agree to a flexible working request unless there is a genuine business reason not to”. The business reasons for rejecting a request continue to be those set out in the legislation.


The new Code introduces requirements to prevent discrimination where a request is because an employee is seeking a reasonable adjustment because of a disability.


While the current Code encourages a discussion with the employee, particularly where the employer rejects or wants to modify the request, the new code specifies that unless the employer decides to agree to the employee’s written request in full, they must now consult the employee. The new Code provides guidance on how the meeting should be held and its content.


The new Code requires that a request be decided on within a statutory two-month period including any appeal. Currently three months are allowed.


The new Code also now specifies that the decision is communicated in writing and what this should contain. It also sets out appeal procedures.


Until the new Code receives parliamentary approach, then any statutory requests you receive can still be handled in accordance with the current Code of Practice (https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-on-flexible-working-requests/html)


However, with parliamentary approval expected by April, it would be well to be prepared with your policies.


To review the new Code of Practice, please see: https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-on-flexible-working-requests/2024

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