ACAS is updating its statutory Code of Practice on managing flexible working requests. ACAS is currently consulting on the draft code. The consultation will close on 6th September 2023. ACAS also plans to update its non-statutory guidance on flexible working.
The new draft Code of Practice takes a more positive stance on flexible working. The hope is that employers will not automatically reject requests without proper consideration and conversations about what might be possible. ACAS has acknowledged in the consultation document that rapid technological advances and the COVID-19 pandemic changed the opinions of many employers and businesses regarding flexible working.
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which recently received Royal Assent, will change the statutory process regarding how a flexible working request is made. The new Bill should come into force in 2024.
The reformed Code intends to inform employers, employees, and representatives about how the new flexible working rules should work practically. The draft Code will also:
Extend the categories of individuals who may accompany an employee at meetings to discuss a flexible working request. This category will include trade union representatives and officials;
Include guidance on how employers should provide reasonable information to explain their decision on requests;
Include guidance on how employers should allow an appeal where a flexible working request has not been granted.
Best practice for flexible working requests
Our advice is to have a clear policy which sets out the procedure to be followed when making a flexible working request, the information you will need to assist you when considering the request, the procedure that will be followed once the request is received to include any time frames and what will happen once a decision has been made. A well drafted policy will provide uniformity for all applicants to ensure a fair process which is unbiased, non-discriminatory and helps employees to understand their legal rights.
Additionally, decision makers in the process should be given training and regular refreshers, so they understand the regulations behind flexible working requests, the policy, and the fair reasons for declining a flexible working request.
The next steps
If you require any assistance with preparing or reviewing your flexible working request policy, manager training or have any questions about the legal issues or topics covered in this article, please contact Emma O'Connor at [email protected]. Alternatively, learn more on how we can assist with employment law matters and HR training.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.