How to seamlessly incorporate the new ‘Day One Flexible Working Right’ into your business

On 6th April 2024, the UK introduced day-one flexible working rights – giving employees the right to request flexible working on the same day they start a job.

Abbi Melville • 
Day One Flexible Working Right

Since the Flexible Working Regulations were introduced in 2014 under the Employment Rights Act 1992, people managers have been legally obliged to consider requests to work flexibly, once an employee has acquired 6 months of service.

So most HR professionals and people managers should already have some experience implementing flexible working practices in their organisation… especially considering the growth in demand for this post-pandemic.

But that 6-month grace period has now been abolished. So we thought we’d write a bit of advice for you, to incorporate the “day one flexible working right” into your organisation.

The end of the 6-month grace period

The 6-month grace period that employers have enjoyed since 2014 has now been abolished under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, and as of the 6th of April this year, employers must consider staff flexible working requests from day one of employment.

And if this comes as a surprise? You’re not alone.

In January this year, research from YouGov suggested that 43% of employers were unaware of this new law. And although there has been recent heavy media coverage of this as the new law takes effect, we expect that many will still not quite feel prepared.

Are you ready for this new law?

Up to the minute polling suggests that just over half of employees (55%) expect to make a flexible working request when these new regulations take effect. So people managers may need to prepare themselves for a surge in activity. The question is, ‘are you ready for this’?

Of course, only you’ll know the answer to this, but research suggests that while most of you understand the regulation (as we’d expect), over half of you remain concerned about receiving a flurry of flexible working requests.

But, in truth, employers should be comforted by the fact that apart from the 6-month grace period, the existing flexible working process has not changed. Employees and managers must still follow statutory procedures when making and responding to flexible working requests, and employers still have the right to reasonably refuse the request.

So take comfort: This is not a free-for-all, and apart from the Day One change, staff have not gained any greater powers to work flexibly.

72% of businesses have not shared information on the latest rules with staff

However, it’s vital that employers clarify the new rules with employees and don’t allow them to rely on messaging that may appear on social media, as it may not be reliable.

One poll suggested that nearly 3 quarters of businesses had not proactively shared information on the latest rules with employees.

This could be problematic, given the often fickle nature of social media messaging that could leave your employees misinformed or with unrealistic expectations, creating employee relations issues down the line.

Share the latest flexible work rules with employees to cut through any media hyperbole

A crucial first step should be to update your existing flexible working policy with the latest regulations, using the ACAS Code of Practice on requesting flexible working. This is quite a long document, so if time is a constraint then ACAS Code-compliant flexible working policies are appearing online by the minute.

The sooner you can update your employees with the new regulations the better, given the climate. This will allow you to manage your employee’s expectations so they approach your HR teams and managers with flexible working requests in the spirit of the law and not based on what they may have heard erroneously on social media. This should lead to a smoother transition to this new law for business.

Even so, employers may still experience a temporary increase in admin around flexible working requests and your HR team should be ready for this.

Clarify your flexible working strategy to provide context around flexible working requests

Your people managers and HR managers might not be used to having discussions around flexible working during interviews and/or during the onboarding process. It’s plausible that new hires may put in a request for flexible work on day one which may be a culture shock.

People managers may need support here which could involve a workshop to help deal with statutory flexible working requests in this new more pressing environment. People managers should be educated in the overarching flexible working strategy. This will give people managers much-needed context around their decisions to accept or refuse a request for flexible working and ensure greater consistency in decision-making between teams. This should again lead to a more harmonious adoption of Day One flexible working orthodoxy.

While there may be a temporary increase in administrative tasks associated with managing the new law around flexible working requests, adopting a proactive approach, and providing necessary support can pave the way for a more harmonious transition. Ultimately, embracing this change can lead to a more productive, adaptable, and inclusive workplace culture.