A day one right to flexible working is coming, here’s what you need to know

Flexible working has been in place for over 20 years with various rights being extended granting further inclusivity. On 6th April, the biggest change is imminent, whereby the employees’ right to request flexible working no longer must be earned, it’s present from day one.


Whilst some debate this change favours employees and could present operational challenges to employers, there is no question this right marks a significant step forward in embracing an individual’s needs and wellbeing. The day one right represents a shift in emphasis that will empower the employee to address their work-life balance collaboratively with their employers.

Mental Health UK’s recent Burnout Report highlighted the critical need to address burnout in the workplace, finding that 9 out of 10 adults in the UK experienced high or extreme stress in the past year. We fundamentally believe the ‘day one right’ is a progressive measure to be embraced by both employees and employers. We know from our award winning Into Work programme it will no doubt encourage people to return to the workplace with the knowledge they can request from the outset ways of working that support their wellbeing. Other benefits include reduced absenteeism, staff retention and increased productivity.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working refers to a range of different ways an individual can carry out their role whilst supporting their commitments and needs both in and outside of work. Regardless of workplace size or sector, flexible working can be beneficial to both employees and employers. Flexible working might not be suitable for every role but employers from the outset should consider what might be possible operationally.

Flexible working practices include:

  • Part-time working: when employers are contracted to work anything less than full-time hours.
  • Term-time working: an employee remains on a permanent contract but takes paid/unpaid leave during school holidays.
  • Job-sharing: a form of part-time working where two (or occasionally more) people share the responsibility for a role between them.
  • Flexitime: allows employees to choose, within limits, when to begin and end work.
  • Compressed hours: the hours in a working week aren’t reduced but compressed into fewer blocks or days.
  • Annual hours: the total number of hours worked over the year is fixed but the length of the working day and week varies.
  • Working remotely on a regular basis: employees work all or some of their week at a remote location other than the workplace (could be at home).
  • Hybrid working: a combination of working remotely or at home and the workplace location.

The numerous benefits of flexible working range from increased employee engagement to reduced absenteeism. It allows for more inclusion by supporting the different ways people can work. Since the pandemic, a whole new way of working was thrust upon most workplaces, increasing the possibilities of flexible working.

What is changing and how can workplaces prepare for the change?

Flexible working arrangements can be used to change how, where and when an employee works. From 6th April 2024, employees will be able to request flexible working from the first day of a job, whereas prior to they are only able to after a continuous 26 weeks of employment.

From 6th April, as per the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023:

  • Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, rather than one request.
  • Employers are required to decide within two months of receiving the request. Currently, they have three months, and this includes any appeal.
  • If an employer feels unable to accept the request, they will need to consult with the employee. The onus is on the employer to seek out collaborative conversations with the employee, to see what is possible and to keep communication open.
  • Employees will no longer have to explain what effect, if any, the flexible working request would have on the workplace and how to overcome them.
  • Employers must manage requests in a reasonable manner. They can only reject a request for one of eight business reasons as set out in legislation:
    • the burden of additional costs
    • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
    • an inability to recruit additional staff
    • a detrimental impact on quality
    • a detrimental impact on performance
    • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
    • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
    • a planned structural change to your business

Employees should be allowed to appeal the decision and it would be helpful for employers to understand how the decision may impact on the employee as this new information might be shared.

The new ACAS Code of Practice has been published and will come into effect on 6th April. Up until that time the current flexible working arrangements can be adhered to.

In preparing for the change, it’s important all line managers are trained so they can confidently handle the process to ensure the best achievable outcome for both the employer and employee. HR departments will need to be ripple these changes throughout their organisations, ensuring relevant policies are updated and guidance adhered to. Leadership teams will need to embrace the cultural shift towards flexible working, whilst looking for ways to collectively overcome barriers that may prevent such requests, such as investment in ICT etc.

How can employees approach flexible working with their manager?

A flexible working request must be in writing, templates are usually available within the organisation or they can be accessed via ACAS’ website. It’s important to keep a record of everything requested and the date of the request. Be mindful of the grounds an employer can refuse, but the emphasis is on the employer to consult and openly communicate to the employee. The timeframe for an employer to decide will be two months, so this could be diarised to remind.

If a flexible working request is refused, an employee can appeal the decision. At the appeal meeting, the employee can be represented by a Trade Union or accompanied by a work colleague. Crucially, a flexible working request can be for a trial period to ensure it meets with the expectations and requirements of both parties. Following the trial, working arrangements or patterns can be modified as part of the process.

Some organisations may have further work-life guidance accessible via the HR department, Employee Assistance Programme or Occupational Health.

For some organisations this new level of flexible working from day one could present challenges. However, it’s imperative to identify and invest in measures to overcome these barriers because autonomous ways of working are the way forward. Empowering your workforce increases productivity and commitment whilst supporting the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.

"The recent changes in flexible working are a welcome step to adapting our approach to mental health at work. Flexible working can offer many benefits to our wellbeing for a number of reasons; acknowledging that all employees are individual, and therefore the best-suited working day will look differently for us all.

Flexible working promotes more autonomy and control, which can be highly beneficial for our sense of wellbeing. It can also potentially support a better work/life balance, allowing accommodations to schedule in nourishing, social or restful activities within the working day or week. Above all, flexible working arrangements encourage a more inclusive workforce, increasing access for individuals with, for example, caring responsibilities or health considerations. This increases the number of meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities across society, and workplaces benefit from a wider and more diverse talent pool within their workforce."

Charlotte Maxwell Davies, Head of Workplace Mental Health

"Naturally, there may be concerns from both an employer and employee perspective around the new legislation. However, if both parties approach flexible working with an 'anything is possible' mindset and work backwards from this, it can help to open up communication, demonstrate a supportive workplace culture and ensure employees feel empowered and engaged.

Handled correctly and proactively, in an open and transparent way, this new legislation can truly bring positive change for everyone in the workplace."

Monica Anstead-Chapman, Senior Trainer and Consultant

“Pre-pandemic, I started a new job but my physical and mental health were severely impacted by recurrent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), panic attacks and menorrhagia. Going to work every day dealing with all these challenges was exacerbating my anxiety and I wasn’t sure if I could carry on working. I knew that working from home even one day a week would make everything so much easier to manage but because I was only a few months into the job, so my request was declined.

I can’t fully explain how excruciating this time in my life was, I almost felt like I had to prove my worth before I was able to request this arrangement, despite knowing it would benefit my employer from increased productivity at home. To have had this right from day one would have completely altered how I viewed myself and indeed the employer, not to mention the physical and mental health benefits of being able to manage my conditions better.

This right from day one is an absolute game changer for employees.”

Gemma Orpwood, Senior Digital Manager

Have you been affected by burnout?

The world has transformed massively in recent years with
social and technological changes, as well as global events
such as the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. The modern
ways of life have drastically affected our work-life balance
and stressors in life, causing many to experience burnout.

Find out more

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