Government Announces Changes to Flexible Working and Increases in Rates of NMW
Flexible Working Rights – What are the changes and when will they come into force?
Old Flexible Working Rights:
In April 2003 the UK Government introduced the ‘right to request flexible working’. Initially, in order for an employee to benefit from this right they had to have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment. Although the right to request flexible working now includes all employees, the original plan was for this right to only apply to parents, guardians and certain carers.
New updated Flexible Working Rights
The Government after having a 12 month consultation have now updated the Flexible Working Laws.
What has changed
When can an employee make the request?
Previously employees had to have 26 weeks’ employment with the company before any Flexible Working request could be made.
The new changes permit employees to make the request from the first day of employment. The question will now be how many will actually utilise this? If a job advert specifies the hours and location of work, an employer may be confused if an employee immediately asks for reduced hours or remote working. Employees may be reluctant to “rock the boat” during probationary periods.
How often you can make the request?
Under the old rules, it was only possible for employees with 26 weeks service to make the request once every 12 months. The new rules allow the employee to make a request twice in any 12 month period.
When does the employer have to respond?
Under the old rules your employer had 3 months to respond to a request for flexible working. The new rules reduces the time limit to 2 months.
How should the request be made?
Under the old rules the employee had to set out how the flexible working request would affect the business. This is no longer a requirement under the new rules.
Reasons for refusal
The new rules have not changed the list of 8 reasons an employer can rely on to refuse a flexible working request. These are:
- it will cost the business too much
- it is not possible to reorganise the work among other staff
- it is not possible to recruit more staff
- there will be a negative effect on quality
- there will be a negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand
- there will be a negative effect on performance
- there’s not enough work for the employee to do at the times they have requested to work
- there are planned changes to the business, for example, an intention to reorganise or change the business and the request will not fit with these plans
What can employees do if a flexible working request is refused?
Whilst there is no legal entitlement for an employee to appeal a refusal to allow a flexible working request. ACAS suggests that an employer should consider the appeal in case any information was missed.
It is important to bear in mind that the new rules require the employer to discuss alternative forms of flexible working that might suit both the company and the employer.
Whilst the new rules do not give an additional cause of action before an employment tribunal view if an employer refuses a flexible working request. Employers should be careful to act proportionately and fairly to avoid allegations of discrimination or claims for unfair constructive dismissal.
Moving forward, businesses are advised to incorporate a flexible working policy clearly setting out how a request can be made and how it will be considered.
Annual Rate Increases for 2023
The Department for Work and Pensions has published its annual rate increases for 2023/2024.
The rate for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay will increase to £172.48 per week (previously £156.66). The rate for statutory sick pay will increase to £109.40 per week (previously £99.35).
The annual increase to the minimum wage and national living wage are as follows:-
• 23+ – £10.42 (previously £9.50)
• 21-22 – £10.18 (previously £9.18)
• 18-20 – £7.49 (previously £6.83)
• 16-17 – £5.28 (previously £4.81)
• apprentices – £5.28 (previously £4.81)
The accommodation offset will be £9.10 per day (previously £8.70).
These changes will take effect in April 2023.
If you would like advice on making a flexible working request or assistance with a flexible working policy, Please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0207 388 1658 or email email@example.com to arrange a one hour fixed fee consultation to assess your case and advise you on your options.