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It is a new financial year and with that usually comes updates to employment laws and 2024 is no exception. 
 
There are several changes coming into force this year and a few of them are quite significant so staying informed is pivotal for your business. 
 
In this article, we are going to explore one of the changes in more detail because this is the one that could potentially have a big impact on your business. 
 
 

Changes to flexible working 

Until now, employees were not entitled (unless otherwise stated in their company policy) to request flexible working until they had been employed for a minimum of twenty six weeks. 
 
They were only able to put forward a flexible working request once a year. 
 
In general, they had to outline their reasons for requesting and employers had up to three months to respond. 

What has changed 

As of April 2024, employees are entitled to request flexible working from their very first contracted day. 
 
If you choose to deny the request, you will have to outline the reasons for your decision clearly. You should ensure that your reasons are justified and fair. 
 
Another big change is that you will have to respond within two months whereas previously it was three months. 
 
Employees can now request flexible working twice during a twelve month period as opposed to the once it was previously. 

What does flexible working mean? 

There are several ways an employee can request flexible working: 
 
The number of hours they work 
What time they start and finish work 
The days they work 
Where they work 
 
We know that personal circumstances can change and wherever possible, employers should try to accommodate any new needs an employee has; within reason. 
 
Within reason is a key statement here because these changes to the law do not mean that you have to automatically accept a flexible working request. There are reasons that will be deemed as reasonable grounds to refuse. 
 
For example, 
 
It could harm their performance or the performance of their colleagues. 
 
If this is the case, it is a valid reason to refuse because if their performance suffers, it will have a direct impact on their mental health as well as the added pressure on the business or their colleagues. 
 
It would cost the business money 
 
If a flexible working request is likely to be costly for you as the employer then you have grounds to refuse. You are not expected to be out of pocket to accommodate the request, however, you must ensure that you remain open minded. 
 
It would reduce the quality or standards of their work or the businesses work 
 
If the quality of work suffers, it could have a domino effect on the business. If the quality or standards are not what the business is used to, the service will no longer be at the same standard and the business could potentially lose customers or clients. 
 
There is not enough work for the employee to do during the hours requested 
 
If you run a business that is dependent on certain timescales, it may not be possible for you to accommodate a change to working hours. If it does not make business sense, it is ok to refuse. 
 
If you are planning changes to the business structure and the request will not fit within those changes 
 
Every business goes through changes to business structure and if the request does not fit within that, you can refuse. However, be careful with this one. If you have not already announced the changes, it could be seen as a deliberate obstruction. 
 

Why should you consider flexible working requests? 

 

Having a good flexible working policy in your business could benefit you. The world has changed and employees are demanding more than just a fair salary. 
 
People want more flexibility in their life; a better work life balance and the truth is, if you want to retain good employees, then being flexible is a positive way forward. 

How could it benefit the business? 

If it is possible for you to accommodate flexible working requests, I would suggest that you do. It is a well known fact that if employees are happy, they will be more productive and loyal to your business. 
 
There are many reasons employees will ask for flexible working and accommodating these requests could not only save you money but also help to build your business. 
 
Here are a few of the possible benefits. 
 
Reduce absence rates 
 
Flexible working can significantly help to reduce absence rates within the business. It can allow employees to work around their personal commitments, therefore reducing the need to take unexpected time off. 
 
Absence can be costly for a business so this is a good way to reduce that cost and inconvenience. 
 
Increase mental wellbeing 
 
This is possibly one of the most significant reasons for encouraging flexible working within the workplace. 
 
By being open to this way of working, it allows staff to relieve some of the pressures they may be facing. It can help to reduce anxiety and stress. Employee wellbeing is at the top of everyone's agenda at the moment and this could be a fantastic way to support this
 
Increased productivity 
 
By allowing flexible working, employees are likely to be more relaxed and motivated. They will also need to complete their allocated work within a set timescale so will go above and beyond to ensure this happens. 
 
Increase staff retention 
 
Perhaps the biggest benefit, encouraging flexible working means that you are encouraging a better work life balance. From the perspective of both your current employees and future employees, this can only enhance your reputation as a great employer and encourage loyalty from your team. 
 
If you increase staff retention rates, you decrease recruitment costs, therefore saving you potentially a lot of time and money. 
To conclude, I do not believe these changes will impact any business significantly, as long as it is managed effectively. There are many benefits to having a good flexible working policy in your business so I would encourage you to embrace these changes and plan for a brighter future and happier workforce. 
 
If you would like any advice or help to implement an effective and beneficial flexible working policy, please do get in touch. 
 
Tagged as: Flexible working
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