A Guide to the UK's Flexible Working Bill

By Victoria Fellows


What does the UK's flexible working legislation mean for your business?

Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that six per cent of UK employees - equating to some two million workers - changed their jobs in the year up to May 2023 because of a lack of flexibility in their role. The same study found that 12 per cent left their chosen profession entirely due to a culture that was too rigid and unresponsive to their needs.

In today's world, where employers are competing to fill their skills gaps, candidates are taking flexible working policies into consideration more than ever when applying for jobs. Now, this new legislation is turning this shift in working practice into law and, as employers, we need to make sure we are fulfiling our obligations.

Kevin Hollinrake, business and trade minister, said: “A happier workforce means increased productivity, and that’s why we’re backing measures to give people across the UK even more flexibility over where and when they work. Not only does flexible working help individuals fit work alongside other commitments – whether it’s the school drop off, studying or caring for vulnerable friends and family – it’s good business sense too, helping firms to attract more talent, increase retention and improve workforce diversity.”

What is the Flexible Working Bill?

Brought before Parliament in December last year, the legislation will come into force on April 6th 2024. It will give your employees the right to request flexible working provision from the moment they start a new job, as opposed to the 26 weeks they had to wait previously. The definition of flexible working encompasses everything from working hours to location, with different people wishing to take advantage of varying aspects to suit their individual needs.

At present, your employees are allowed to make one flexible working request every 12 months and employers have three months to respond to it. Under the new legislation, two requests will be permitted within the same timeframe and you must address them within two months, taking into consideration a consultation with the member of staff involved.

The emphasis on dealing with how the change might impact the company will also be taken away from the employee. They will no longer be obliged to find ways to ensure their role is carried out sufficiently, leaving that responsibility with you as a business and HR team. This will require some planning for a smooth transition.

How to prepare for the new legislation

Your workplace must implement measures to ensure you’re compliant with the new laws, have transparent processes to follow and are clear on everyone’s responsibilities. This will mean any adjustments to the workplace dynamics don’t cause disruption and leave all parties happy with the outcomes.

- Implement new policies and processes

The first place to start is with company policies surrounding flexible working, as many will suddenly become outdated when the new legislation comes into force. Such policies must be reviewed and amended to reflect the changes but also in a way that is workable for the business and its specific needs.

It’s likely that the Flexible Working Bill will result in more of your employees making requests, so your HR team should anticipate this uptick. There must be clear processes to follow so that both staff and managers know what the procedure is to make a request and can implement them in a fair and transparent manner.

- Conduct management training

Managers must be empowered to put the new policies and processes into action, which will require training. Requests should be handled empathetically and with an emphasis on finding appropriate solutions, even if they’re not exactly the ones your employee proposed in the first place.

As well as handling requests, it will be up to managers to maintain the level of performance within a team when flexible working measures are in place. This may require adjustments to team working, delegation and communication practices as working patterns vary among staff working on the same project.

- Communicate changes to employees

How changes are communicated to the workforce is crucial in facilitating everyone’s understanding. It’s important that the obligations on the part of each side are acknowledged and presented in a manner that encourages mutual benefit. Referring back to the legislation will help to demonstrate you’re compliant, but remember to make your policies accessible too.

Businesses disseminate information to their staff in a number of ways, so the model can vary. What needs to be the common factor, however, is a clarity of communication that means there’s no ambiguity about what can be expected when your employee makes a request.

Implications of the bill for hiring

While the Flexible Working Bill allows your employees to request such arrangements from day one in a role, it does not mean you have to honour them. You must hear the member of staff out and try to find ways to make it work, but ultimately there will be situations where you need to turn requests down.

It’s therefore vital that you outline the levels of flexibility afforded in any role when writing a job description or advert. Offering remote or hybrid working can help you attract quality candidates to a role, but those who rely on flexible working practices should not assume the new legislation will give them such assurance.

For more information on this new legislation or to discuss any of our other blog topics, please contact us at

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