New flexible working rights to come into force next year

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Plans to allow employees to request flexible working from their first day of employment are due to come into force from April 2024Plans to allow employees to request flexible working from their first day of employment are due to come into force from April 2024. Regulations have been laid before Parliament this week removing the requirement for 26 weeks’ service to ask for flexible times and places of work, due to come into effect on 6 April next year. Under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations any requests made from 6 April do not need any service requirement, meaning that employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day one of employment.

The rules will also reduce the current reasonable timeline to deal with requests from three months to two months, removing the requirement for the employee to set out the impact of their requested arrangements and increased the number of statutory requests permitted every 12 months from one to two. There will also be a new requirement for employers to consult with an employee before refusing a request. It is likely that all the changes will come into effect at the same time, but the government has yet to confirm the details.

No date for the implementation of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, has been set, although it is expected to come in on the same day as the day-one right to request flexible working. When enacted, this law will allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.

Also this week, new parental leave regulations came before Parliament. The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will mean that the period protected from redundancy for those on maternity leave will include the entire pregnancy, as well as 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth (although the employee can change this to the exact date of birth if they inform their employer prior to the end of their maternity leave).