New home and flexible working rules in the UK — here's what they mean

Working from home became a norm for many during the pandemic (Pexels)
Working from home became a norm for many during the pandemic (Pexels)

A new British law means that employees now have a legal right to request flexible working from their first day in a job.

The protection came in on Saturday (April 6) to replace the previous ruling which said staff needed to work for at least 26 weeks before being able to request it.

Peter Cheese, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said this new protection could benefit millions.

He said: “Flexibility around time, scheduling and place of work can be transformative in opening up opportunities for people to get into and stay in work, especially those who have health conditions, caring responsibilities, or other life choices they want to make.

“With an ageing population, and rising levels of economically inactive people due to ill health, flexible working is more important than ever, and has been shown to support better well-being, making it good for individuals as well as organisations.

“The pandemic accelerated the understanding of flexible working, and the demand for it, and many organisations have responded positively by introducing more flexible working policies.”

Working from home became a norm for many during the pandemic. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics, 16 per cent of the workforce are still not back in the workplace.

A study of 4,000 workers by campaign group Timewise found that half would consider asking for a flexible pattern of work using the day-one right to request a new job.

However, around seven in 10 workers are unaware of their new rights, according to Acas data.

This is what it all means.

What are the rules for flexible working?

Sky News said the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 gained royal assent in July. Kevin Hollinrake, the business and trade minister, backed the measure for "a happier workforce [which] means increased productivity".

Flexible working involves a different work style from the usual 9-5 office activities. It can involve changes to someone’s work location to save them from commuting.

Sky News reported that Tony Blair’s government introduced it in the early 2000s. Parents of children under six and carers of those under 18 could ask for a flexi working arrangement.

Fast forward to the present day and says employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:

  • extra costs that will damage the business.

  • the work cannot be reorganised among other staff.

  • people cannot be recruited to do the work.

  • flexible working will affect quality and performance.

  • the business will not be able to meet customer demand.

  • there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.

  • the business is planning changes to the workforce.

But the new rules say that before rejecting an employee's request for flexible work schedules, companies must discuss this first.

Employers now have two months instead of three to respond to a request.

Instead of the one request they are now permitted to make, employees can submit two requests in 12 months.

Additionally, the employee will no longer be required to explain how their request will affect the company or how it might be handled.