Reacting to upcoming changes to the UK's law on flexible working, Chris Jones, a senior associate in Herbert Smith Freehills' employment practice, says that "flexible working is not about changing the job itself, it is about changing the way in which the job is done. The new legislation does not change the basis for making – or refusing – a flexible working request, but it does change the process by which one is made and handled."
The new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill has passed its final stage in Parliament and now only requires royal assent before becoming law. Once implemented, employees will be able to submit flexible working requests more regularly and will no longer need to explain the impact of their request on their employer. The new law will also require employers to respond within two months, ensuring decisions are reached more quickly, and consult with the employee before refusing any request.
Chris Jones adds: "This is also a useful point in time for employers to remind themselves of the difference between flexible working and agile working. The fact an employer may already have an agile working environment, in which employees are already able to – for example – work from home a certain number of days per week is not a reason on its own to refuse a formal flexible working request. Indeed, the fact it is accepted many jobs can now be done partly remotely means that any decision to refuse a flexible working request must be supported by a strong rationale."
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