2024 - New Flexible Working Laws – Considerations for Employers

‘Flexible Working’ is the term that refers to working patterns, arrangements, or hours. Examples include part-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, adjusted start and finish times, and alternative work locations such as working from home. Flexible working has historically been of particular benefit to Employees with caring responsibilities outside of work, or health issues.

The UK Government has announced that revised Flexible Working Regulations will come into effect as of 6 April 2024. The main change is as it will give Employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of their employment. Under current law, Employees must have worked for a business for at least 26 weeks before they can make a request to work flexibly.

This month’s blog examines what the changes mean for Employers and Employees, and what preparations need to be made.

What is Changing?

Under the new Regulations, Employers will be required to consult fully with Employees when they make a flexible working request, before rejecting it.

Under current law, Employers have 3 months to respond to a request to work flexibly. Under the new law, that response time will be reduced to 2 months.

Under current law, Employees can make one flexible working request within a 12-month period. Under the new law, Employees will be able to make two requests within a 12-month period.

Under current law, an Employee is expected to explain the effect they believe their request will have on their Employer, and how the impact of working flexibly may be dealt with. Under the new law, Employees will not be required to provide such an explanation.

So, what steps should Employers consider when it comes to preparing for this change to Regulations?

Break with Tradition

For decades, the Monday to Friday 9-5 working model has been the norm, but societal changes and working styles have come to challenge the idea of the 40-hour working week over recent years. It is important to recognise this change in views by placing more focus on output and results achieved over the number of hours worked.

A request for flexibility with working hours or location doesn’t automatically mean that output will be negatively affected. Many Employees find they are more productive when working from home or constrained by compressed hours, for example. An individual Employee’s potential to produce the necessary output away from their traditional working pattern should be considered when reviewing every flexible working request. An Employer could, for example, propose a trial period before fully committing to a permanent change.

Embrace the Cultural Shift

Now more than ever before, there is a focus on wellbeing at work. Increasingly, Employees are searching for businesses that value wellbeing as an integral part of their organisational culture. With working styles, lifestyles and caring responsibilities looking very different from how they did years ago, the option to work flexibly is often a huge selling point for jobseekers.

Not every role will suit a flexible working pattern, but to look at all possible ways it could be made to work, and offering close alternatives, is a worthwhile approach to adopt to support continued business success.

Make It Clear From The Start

Employers could see an influx in flexible working requests once the new Regulations come into law. However, having greater scope to make flexible working requests does not guarantee that those requests will be accepted.

There are some Employees for whom flexible working is essential – they may rely on it to balance their work and home lives successfully. It is worthwhile consulting with Employees over the proposed changes to the Act, and what the Employer is able to offer in that regard.

Additionally, with flexible working requests becoming a right from day one, candidates applying for roles should be very clear as to the level of flexibility the prospective Employer can offer, and the kind of needs that can be accommodated, before they accept a job offer.

Invest in Technology

Some flexible working requests may relate to hybrid working or working remotely, particularly as many businesses operated well on this basis through the 2020/2021 Covid lockdowns.  Wherever possible, invest in the necessary technology to make this style of working accessible to Employees, in a way that also works equally well for the Employer.

Rethink Workspaces

It may be advisable to re-design workspaces to accommodate flexible working schedules that affect working times and locations. Examples include hot desking or arranging Employees on similar work schedules to sit together in an environment that is not disrupted by the comings and goings of others working alternate schedules.

8 Fair Reasons

To reject a flexible working request, an Employer must have a valid business reason. There are eight reasons that can be given for turning down a request;

  • It will cost the business too much;
  • The work cannot be re-organised amongst other Employees;
  • It’s not possible to recruit more Employees;
  • There will be a negative effect on the quality of work;
  • There will be a negative effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demand;
  • There will be a negative effect on performance;
  • There is insufficient work for your Employee for the times they’ve requested to work; and
  • There are planned changes to the business, and the request will not fit with those plans.

If a request must be rejected on the basis of any of the above reasons, it is good practice to explain to the Employee, ideally in writing, as to why their requested changes cannot be made.  In addition, an Employer should ask the Employee their reasons for requesting the change, and whether they have any other ideas for how it can be made to work.

While flexible working options can benefit Employees in many ways, and fit well with the cultural and societal shift towards better wellbeing at work and embracing new styles of working, it is important not to forget about the needs of the business. If one person’s request could affect the business so negatively that it could damage output, quality, or have a wider impact on the rest of the workforce, rejecting it may need to be one unpopular decision worth making.


To prepare for new Regulations, Employers should review their current flexible working Policies and make sure that they can accommodate the changes. With the potential for an increase in flexible working requests after the changes, Employers must be ready to review and respond to all applications promptly, based on facts, not opinion. Finally, while flexible working opens a world of opportunities for both Employees and Employers, it should be balanced carefully with the ongoing needs of the business, taking into account the impact that accepting and rejecting applications can have on day-to-day, as well as long term operations.

Do you need support in updating your current flexible working Policies and Processes to accommodate the new regulations? We are here to help.  Please do not hesitate in giving us a call.