Flexible Working Bill receives Royal Assent

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which will allow UK workers to request flexible working from day one in a job, has received Royal Assent.

Employees now have the right to request this twice a year instead just once. Employers are now required to consider these and provide a reason before rejection within two months of a request, a change from the previous three months.

The government has also removed existing requirements for an employee to explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that might be dealt with.

Employees can request flexible working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times. It also covers where someone works, such as from home or a satellite office in order to shorten their commute.

Kevin Hollinrake, business and trade minister, said: “A happier workforce means increased productivity, and that’s why we’re backing measures to give people across the UK even more flexibility over where and when they work.

“Not only does flexible working help individuals fit work alongside other commitments, whether it’s the school drop off, studying or caring for vulnerable friends and family, it’s good business sense too, helping firms to attract more talent, increase retention and improve workforce diversity.”

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and chair of the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, added: “Many organisations are facing the dual challenges of skills shortages and talent retention issues and we know that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems. Flexible-working practices can include options on the hours people work, their working patterns and their location, for example hybrid working. Employers that use a range of approaches can ensure flexible-working provision is fair and available to all types of workers regardless of their job or sector.”