Changes to flexible working rights: summary

Understand the changes to flexible working rules from April, including the right to request flexible arrangements from day 1 of employment. Read advice on how to respond to the changes, and download our letter to staff and handout for governors about the new rules.

Last reviewed on 11 March 2024
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 49316
Contents
  1. What's changed?
  2. How to consult staff
  3. Update your flexible working policy
  4. Communicate the changes to your team
  5. Discuss flexible working as part of recruitment

The rules around requesting and granting flexible working arrangements changed 6 April 2024, when the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 came into effect.

Please note, this article is based on the Act and Acas’ code of practice on requests for flexible working, which was has been updated in line with the Act. If your procedures are based on Acas' guidance from before 6 April 2024, you may need to update them.

The information in this article applies to statutory flexible working requests – read about the difference between statutory and non-statutory (informal) requests in our other article.

What's changed?

Old ruleNew rule
Staff who have been employed at your school for 26 weeks have the right to make a statutory request for flexible working.All staff have the right to make a statutory flexible working request from day 1 of employment.
Staff can make 1 flexible working request in a 12-month period.Staff can make 2 flexible working requests in a 12-month period.
Employers must respond to any flexible working request within 3 months.Employers must respond to any flexible working request within 2 months.
Employers can reject flexible working requests if they have a good business reason to do so without a consultation.Employers must consult with the employee before rejecting a flexible working request.
Employees must include details about how the request might impact the organisation and what steps can be taken to deal with this impact in their request.Employees are no longer required to include information about the impact of their flexible working request and how it might be dealt with in their request.

All other requirements around flexible working remain the same – this includes the ‘business reasons’ on which you can refuse a flexible working request (see paragraph 9 of Acas’ code of practice.)

How to consult staff

You must now consult with staff members before making a decision on their flexible working request, unless you decide to accept a written request in full.

We recommend you consult with your staff even if you plan to accept a request, to discuss how the arrangement will work, any support that the staff member needs, and to implement a trial period. A consultation meeting can also help make clear whether a request may relate to a reasonable adjustment for an employee's disability.

See our article on how to respond to flexible working requests for more details on how to run trial periods.

The consultation meeting should be run by someone who has the authority to make decisions on flexible work arrangements – this may be the staff member’s line manager, a member of the senior leadership team (SLT), or your central trust team, depending on your own arrangements.

Acas has guidance on consulting an employee – see paragraphs 12 to 19 of its code of practice. It sets out that you should:

Hold the meeting without 'unreasonable delay'

Both you and the staff member should have reasonable time to prepare for the meeting, while taking into account the new statutory requirement to respond to a flexible working request within 2 months of it being made, including any appeal.

Notify the staff member of the time and place in advance.

Hold the meeting privately

This can be in person, remotely via video conference, or (if neither of these are possible) via a phone call.

Allow for 'reasonable consideration' of the request

Use the meeting to discuss:

  • The potential impacts of accepting or rejecting the request
  • Any practical considerations that will be involved in accepting the request
  • Any modifications or alternatives to the request, if you can’t accept it in full – for example, if you are able to offer planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time from home once a week, where a staff member has requested 3 days
  • Whether a trial period will be appropriate to see whether the request is feasible on a permanent basis

Keep a written record of the meeting

Your minutes should provide an accurate reflection of the discussion and its outcomes.

Update your flexible working policy

While it’s not a statutory requirement to have a flexible working policy, you do have a statutory duty to consider all valid flexible working requests in line with legislation – we recommend you have a policy to help you do this.

Update (or write) your policy in line with the changes to your requirements.

We’re currently updating our flexible working model policy in line with these changes. Select ‘save for later’ at the top of the policy page and we’ll let you know when it’s ready.

You should also update any related policies and procedures. For example, include steps to ask candidates about flexible working in your recruitment policy.

Communicate the changes to your team

Make sure all your staff are aware of the changes – this is especially important if they will be making decisions on flexible working arrangements, but all staff are affected by the changes to their rights.

Download and adapt our letter to share with staff. It includes a summary of the changes found in this article, and information about what steps you’re taking to respond to it. Once you’ve updated your policy, make sure your staff are aware of the changes and know where to access it.

KeyDoc: letter to staff about flexible working arrangements DOC, 181.0 KB

You should also inform governors of the changes – they won’t be directly affected, but may be involved in reviewing your flexible working policy, so they need to know what’s changed and how you’re responding.

Share our information handout for governors to get everyone on the same page.

KeyDoc: handout for governors about flexible working arrangements DOC, 180.0 KB

Include flexible working in staff induction

All staff members will have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day 1 of their employment at your school. This includes part-time workers. Make sure they're aware of this right, and ask them to read your policy as part of the induction process.

Discuss flexible working as part of recruitment

Invite job applicants to discuss flexible working arrangements as part of the recruitment process. This will save you time and allow staff to start working with appropriate arrangements, rather than having to consider and consult on requests once they start working in the role.

It may also help you attract a wider range of candidates and find the best person for the job.

You can include flexible working in recruitment by:

  • Stating on job adverts that you welcome part-time and job-sharing applicants, where appropriate
  • Inviting candidates to discuss flexible working arrangements before the interview

You’re not required to accept these requests, but discussing flexible working at the recruitment stage will get everyone on the same page before a new staff member starts work.

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