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New Flexible Working Laws: What you need to know

As of April 2024 the way employees can request flexible working is changing. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will come into force soon, here's what you need to know.

What are the key changes?

Employees will be able to make flexible working requests from their first day of employment

This is probably the biggest change we'll see when the new legislation comes into place. Before April 2024, employees have been required to have at least 26 weeks service before they could request flexible working. Whilst lots of organisations already offer flexible working from day one, the changes brought about by the bill means this will now apply in all organisations. The CIPD's research shows that those who have greater flexibility at work report higher levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing. Employees need to ensure they are aware of this change as it has the potential to greatly impact businesses.

What exactly does flexible working mean?

Flexible working is a broad term and can relate to working hours or pattern including part-time, term-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, or adjusting start and finish times. It can also include flexibility over where someone works.

Employees will be able to make 2 requests in a 12 month period

Before April 2024, employees were only able to make 1 request within a 12 month period, this change aims to make flexibility at work more readily available to employees.

Employee won't have to explain how their request will impact the business

Previously, a key part of making a flexible working request was employees needing to explain the impact their request would have on their work. This will be abolished once the new Act comes into force.

Employers will need to consult with employees when they make a request

Previously, flexible working requests didn't necessarily need to be dealt with by meeting with an employee. Of course, when somethings changing in terms of an employees contracted working pattern you'd expect their to be a conversation with staff, but in situations where employers were happy with the changes being requested, previously employers could bypass meeting with the employee and just confirm the change in writing. With the new changes, employers will have to consult, meet with, all employees who make a flexible working request, this could be done virtually or face to face.

Employees will have to give a decision on flexible working requests within 2 months.

Previously this was set at 3 months, so once the changes are in place employers will have a shorter period of time to get back to employees, although in reality it shouldn't take employers months to respond to a request.

When will the changes be effective?

The changes will be effective from 6th April 2024.

Why make changes?

According to the CIPD, 6 percent of employees changed jobs in 2022 specifically due to a lack of flexible options and 12 percent left their profession altogether due to a lack of flexibility within the sector. This represents almost 2 and 4 million workers respectively. The new changes are required to provide employees with more flexibility to promote better work practices.

What should employers do?

Employers should make sure that they have reviewed their policies to ensure they comply with the new legal changes, or get some help from an HR professional to make sure they are compliant.

Want to know more? Check out these resources

Want to know more about changes to employment law in 2024? Check out our latest update video on YouTube here

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  • All information within the post is provided for guidance only; always seek your own legal advice.

  • The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, March 2024 but may be subject to change.

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