Are you ready for the new flexible working regulations?

On 6 April 2024 the updated flexible working regulations come into effect. As an employer, it’s vital that you’re ready for the changes.

As working practice evolves, and with the introduction of employees being able to request flexible working from day one of their employment, it’s time to ensure that your organisation is prepared to support new and existing employees when it comes to working flexibly.

Here we’ll explain what you need to do to adhere to the new regulations. Alongside this we’ll unpick some of the barriers to flexible working, highlight good practice, and set out how to reap the benefits of a flexible workplace.

What’s changed?

The changes to flexible working regulations are:

  • All employees will now be able to make two requests in any 12-month period.
  • Employers are now required to deal with requests within two months of receiving the request.
  • The employee no longer has to set out or justify the impact of their proposed flexible working arrangement.
  • Before rejecting a flexible working request, the employer must consult with the employee. If the request is refused the employee can still appeal the decision.

These changes present an excellent opportunity to refresh your current practice, and improve your approach to flexible working. Here’s how.

Dealing with requests: How to get flexible working right

Update your flexible working policy

With the new flexible working regulations now in place, it’s important to ensure that your flexible working policy reflects these changes. Any accompanying guidance should also be updated.

This will help ensure managers are made aware of the latest changes and can respond effectively to new requests. Staff should be also informed of the updated policy and know where to access this. This will provide greater understanding of the process of how to submit a request, and how this should be handled. It’s good practice to regularly review your policies and check where they can be improved.

Engage senior leaders to show your commitment to flexible working

Senior leaders are key to encouraging flexible working in your organisation and fostering an inclusive workplace culture where it can thrive. With strong messaging and visible leadership about your organisation’s commitment to flexible working you can gain and retain talent, improve your business, and advance gender equality in your workplace. Leaders can do this by making a statement to staff about the use of flexible working and its benefits, ensuring employees are aware of how flexible working is done and can be used in your organisation.

Support your line managers to manage flexible working in their teams

Line managers are often the gatekeepers to flexible work. If they’re hesitant or resistant to this can discourage employees from submitting a request. They might assume that frontline workers or particular roles can’t work flexibly. Some line managers might never have managed flexible working before. This can lead to inconsistency in access to flexible work in your organisation. Where requests aren’t handled fairly, this creates unnecessary barriers.

No jobs should be automatically ruled out for flexible working and your flexible working policy should make this clear. Many businesses successfully have senior posts operating on a job-share or part-time basis, and it’s helpful to assume that all jobs can be done flexibly unless there are very clear business reasons why not. Data shows 63% of frontline workers are already working flexibly, showing this is a possibility for roles that are assumed to be more challenging to accommodate. By ensuring line managers are confident in dealing with requests and managing flexible working in their teams, you can make flexible working work for your employees and your organisation.

Trial new flexible working arrangements

With the many types of flexible working, it’s understandable that you may be unsure of what will work in your organisation. Trialling a new flexible working pattern is an easy way of finding out what works well for staff, for teams, and for the organisation. You can work with the employee to agree the length of the trial period and how you’ll evaluate the suitability of the new pattern.

Talk about flexible working from the outset

Another action that will support flexible working includes advertising all jobs as being considered for part-time and/or flexible working. Mentioning the availability of flexible working in adverts will help you attract applicants from a wider talent pool. Recent research shows that 60% of employers have said that flexible working has improved the quality and quantity of candidates. Talking about flexible working during interviews will let candidates know they are able to ask for it if they need it, making it easier to fill vacancies. Discussions on flexible working needs should also form a key part of inductions for new staff.

Ask your staff about their experiences

Looking at how flexible working is used in your organisation will help you understand what works, and what could be improved. The best way to do this is by gathering staff perspectives on their experiences, for example via a staff survey. You can also look at your HR data to identify who is more likely to request flexible working and/or to have their request approved. This will help identify if there are barriers in particular teams, or for particular groups of staff, enabling you to make targeted improvements.

Raise awareness of how employees already work flexibly

Some staff may not be aware that they’re able to work flexibly or don’t know how to approach the topic with their manager. By raising awareness of how flexible working is already used in your organisation you will show your employees that you’re open to flexible working, and encourage them to ask for it if they need to.

Share profiles of employees on different working patterns at different levels, for example senior leaders who work part-time, or teams where managers allow staff to vary start and finish times to enable them to manage childcare. Use a variety of staff communication methods to help reach all employees within your organisation.

By taking these actions, you can build a positive working culture around flexible working which means the new changes to the flexible working regulations will feel easier to manage.

Why women need flexible working

Flexible working is good for your organisation, but it’s also an essential for women’s workplace equality. Many of the causes of the gender pay gap are driven by women’s greater responsibility for unpaid care and the difficulties they still face in combining this with work, especially good quality work.

Women make up the majority of part-time workers. Part-time work is typically concentrated in lower-paid roles and in stereotypically female work, such as care work or admin. Because women often use part-time work to enable them to manage childcare this means they can end up trapped in work that’s below their skill level, seeing their talents wasted.

Where flexible or part-time working isn’t seen at senior levels, this reinforces the idea that caring roles are incompatible with progression. This means you can’t be sure you have the right person for the role, and it’s likely that you’re not making the most of your talent.

Flexible working can also support women’s particular health needs, for example enabling them work flexibly to manage symptoms associated with menopause or menstruation that can impact on their ability to work well.

Recognising the positive impact flexible working can make for women in the workplace can help encourage buy-in from senior leaders and line managers, and contribute to work to closing your gender pay gap. Taking a best practice approach will help you realise the benefits of a flexible workforce, both for your organisation and for your employees.

Helpful resources and further steps you can take

At Close the Gap, we offer a range of tools and resources to help support you to build good flexible working practice.

Our Close Your Pay Gap tool is useful for large employers who are publishing their gender pay gap and want to determine the key factors behind it. It uses your pay gap data, along with your answers to a short set of questions, to produce a personalised report and action plan for your company.

For SMEs our Think Business, Think Equality toolkit will support you to realise the benefits of equality and diversity in your business and to improve your employment practice. Here you can receive tailored feedback to improve your flexible working practice alongside other key areas.

Our Equally Safe at Work accreditation programme is designed to support employers in the public and third sectors. It provides employers with direct support to advance gender equality and tackle violence against women, through improving working practice across six key standards, including flexible working. To find out more, visit our website

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