Time for flexitime


Jo Cullen from local solicitors Edwards Duthie Shamash takes a look at the improvements to employee rights following last month’s changes to the flexible working request regime

Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example, having flexible start and finish times, or working from home. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working. On 6 April 2024, changes to the new flexible working request regime came into force. The headline changes include:

  • An employee can request flexible working from their first day of employment; there is no qualification period.
  • When making a request, an employee no longer has to explain what effect, if any, they think their requested change will have on their employer and how any such effect might be dealt with. 
  • An employee is entitled to make two requests in any 12-month period. 
  • An employer will not be permitted to refuse a request unless the employee has been consulted. 
  • The time for an employer to make a decision is reduced from three to two months.

The new rules are very much to the benefit of the employee, giving them the ability to request flexibility from their first day of employment. There has been much debate about this Day One right and the impact the change may have on employers. However, flexible working is increasingly a topic for discussion during the recruitment process, and the impact may not be as great as initially expected with prospective employees looking to agree varied terms before starting employment.  

Whilst an employee has the right to request flexible working, an employer does not have to agree to the request if it is not feasible and the rejection reasoning falls within one of the business reasons that continue to apply as set out in the legislation.  

Employers will have to deal promptly with requests within the new set time limits, although there is still scope to extend this time by agreement. Any request must be fully considered and discussed. Where a request is not to be agreed, a full consultation must take place and all steps taken clearly documented, including details around variations to the proposed changes or alternative roles to reduce the risk of an appeal and, ultimately, a claim being issued.  

Employers will need to be ready to implement these changes and ensure they are familiar with the new rules and the updated Acas statutory code of practice on requests for flexible working.

Edwards Duthie Shamash is located at 149 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2RL. For more information, call 020 8514 9000 or visit edwardsduthieshamash.co.uk

Author: Editor