UK Proposes Updates to Flexible Working Act

By Katie Nadworny October 3, 2023

​A proposal to update the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act in the U.K. has received royal assent and is on track to take effect next year.

"Proposals to change the flexible-working rules have been rumbling on now for a few years," said Emma O'Connor, legal director at Boyes Turner in Reading, England, U.K. "[Now] what we have to do is wait for secondary legislation before we actually know a lot of the details, including when the changes will take effect and whether the government will extend the right as a 'day-one' right."

Key Changes

So far, the changes apply to some of the key requirements when making and dealing with statutory flexible-work requests, which are permanent changes to the employee's contract.

"A key change is that employees will be able to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period, whereas under the current regime, they can only make one," said Laura Kings, legal director at Clyde & Co in London.

Employers will also have less time to respond to statutory requests. They currently have three months, Kings said, and they will have two months under the new regime.
In their flexible-working request letter, employees write how they think their request might impact the employer's business and suggest why this can be overcome.

"That's going to change under the new proposed procedure, so employees won't have to explain the impact of their statutory flexible-working requests on the employer and how that impact could be minimized," O'Connor said.

Are Proposed Changes Too Modest?

Some observers think the proposal doesn't go far enough with its recommended changes. There is a chance that secondary legislation could integrate more change, such as giving workers the right to request flexibility beginning the first day on the job. 

"One of the initial proposals during the consultation was that employees should have a day-one right to make a flexible-working request. However, the act contains no provision to that effect," said Danielle Parsons, an attorney with Irwin Mitchell in London. "The government has stated the intention to remove the 26-week qualifying period, so it seems we will have to wait for the secondary legislation to confirm this."

Companies can choose to take a proactive approach. "Employers should assess different roles now, and maybe even give their employees some flexible-working options before applications start coming through," Parsons said. "Some employers may even want to go one step further and start offering flexibility to their workers from the outset."

Katie Nadworny is a freelance writer in Istanbul. 



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Member Benefit: Global HR Resources

SHRM's Knowledge Center has compiled a wide variety of employment law resources for over 40 countries.

SHRM's Knowledge Center has compiled a wide variety of employment law resources for over 40 countries.

View the Global Express Requests


HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.