From 6 April 2024, the statutory right to request flexible working changed and a new ACAS Code of Practice came into effect.

A summary of the main changes are as follows:

  • employees can now make a flexible working request from day one of their employment. This is a change from the previous requirement for an employee to have 26 weeks service;
  • employees can now make two flexible working requests in any twelve-month period, rather than one;
  • employees will no longer have to explain what effect the requested change would have on their employer when making the application;
  • employers must consult with an employee before refusing a request – this would usually be done at a meeting; and
  • employers must deal with requests within two months of receipt. Employers currently have three months to handle requests.

These changes are likely to lead to additional workload for employers, given flexible working now becomes a “day one” right, who should ensure that their policies and processes when dealing with requests have been updated to reflect the changes. Managers may require additional training if the predicted increased volume of requests means a larger manager population will need to consider such requests. The risk for discrimination claims (e.g. failure to make reasonable adjustments or indirect sex discrimination) remains where an employee’s request is refused, so employers need to consider and clearly articulate their reasons for rejecting a request.