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Insights // 17 January 2023

How Might the 2022-23 Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill Affect You?

Sue Dowling and Ben Cowdry, in our Employment Law team, follow on from our earlier blog article, ‘Flexible Working Requests - A Summary’, to detail the potential new flexible working rights for employees, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23, having had its second reading in the House of Commons.

As the UK works to recover from the widespread impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, many organisations across the region have permanently adopted more flexible working patterns, including the now familiar “hybrid working” model. These flexible arrangements provide a more accommodating environment, often addressing the barriers faced by those with childcare responsibilities, individuals with disabilities, carers, and older persons in the workplace.

Last Summer, MP Yasmin Qureshi sought to formally tackle occupational barriers further by introducing the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23. This Bill aims to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 by altering the current rights of employees when requesting flexible working. If passed, this Bill would affect thousands in society by:

  • Removing the requirement for employees to explain in their applications for flexible working what effect they think it will have on the employer
  • Entitling employees to request flexible working from day one, instead of the current condition which requires six months’ service to make an application
  • Allowing employees to make two flexible working requests per year instead of one (which is currently allowed)
  • Requiring employers to consult with the employee before refusing their application
  • Reducing the deadline for an employer’s decision on flexible working requests from three to two months.

Yasmin Qureshi suggests that the intention of the Bill is to set the right conditions for employers and employees to have open-minded conversations about the potential for flexible working in any given context. This Bill would help to simplify and normalise the process of, and the response to, any flexible working requests made in an organisation, ultimately enabling employees better access to a diverse range of working environments.  This may generate benefits for both parties in this commercial relationship – for example, easing the requirement of full-time office attendance may increase employee productivity and employer revenue whilst simultaneously helping the employee to achieve a more favourable work/life balance.

With employers offering greater flexible arrangements, such environments become more appealing places to work, thus increasing the ability to “recruit and retain diverse pools of talent which will help support broader business agility”. Such transparency in the workplace could prove to be a pivotal selling point for prospective employers in the UK’s current “talent war”.

This Bill has received an abundance of positive commentary but it has been suggested that it is only a “step in the right direction”. If the Bill is enacted, employees will still not have the absolute right to flexible working and significantly, the business reasons for legitimately and lawfully rejecting a request to work flexibly remain unchanged by the Bill.

Hearing its second reading in the House of Commons in late October 2022, both employers and employees must wait for this proposed legislation to pass through the remaining Parliamentary stages.

Please contact our specialist Employment Law team to discuss flexible working or another matter.

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Sue Dowling

Sue Dowling

Partner, Employment Law & Venue Licensing

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Ben Cowdry

Ben Cowdry

Trainee Solicitor

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