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MPs support the employment relations (flexible working bill)

Currently, under Part VIIIA of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request a change to their working hours, times or location and have that request considered by their employer in line with a statutory Code of Practice. Employers are currently obliged to respond to such flexible working requests within three months.

Currently, under Part VIIIA of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request a change to their working hours, times or location and have that request considered by their employer in line with a statutory Code of Practice. Employers are currently obliged to respond to such flexible working requests within three months.

After making such an application, employees are currently prevented from making another one for the following 12 months. Employees are also currently obliged in their application to explain what effect their request might have on the employer and how to deal with that.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, Bill 22 of the 2022-23 session, was introduced by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi as a Private Member’s Bill, presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure.

The Bill would amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to change the current right to request flexible working in the following ways:

  • removing the requirement for employees to explain in their applications what effect they think it will have on the employer,
  • allowing employees to make two flexible working requests per 12 months instead of the one currently allowed,
  • requiring employers to consult with the employee before being allowed to refuse an application, and
  • reducing the deadline for an employer decision on flexible working requests from three months to two months.

Due to the pandemic and the challenges posed in many people’s lives (e.g. caring requirements, finances, etc.), having flexibility in work is extremely important to many workers. It is a significant benefit and, as mentioned above, some people are reluctant to take a job without a flexible work pattern.

As an employer, it is important to consider whether implementing a flexible working environment would be beneficial for your organisation as it might help retain highly skilled staff as they might look elsewhere if you refuse to offer this benefit.

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