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Written by Heather Taylor, Policy Adviser at Acas (December 2023)



The world of work is undergoing a transformative shift, and at the forefront of this evolution is the drive towards greater flexibility.

Recent studies, including research conducted by the CIPD, reveal a substantial surge in the demand for flexible working arrangements. Its report found that post-pandemic, 40% of employers report a notable uptick in requests for flexible working. Acas’s own survey shows the changing needs of the workforce, with 36% of employers seeing a rise in homeworking in the current year compared to 2022, attributed to rising costs of living.

In response to these changing dynamics and the growing awareness of the benefits of flexibility, the Government is introducing a series of legislative reforms which seek to make flexible working the default. Upcoming changes, expected in spring 2024, will require employers to carefully review their own policies and practices to make sure these align with the legal changes as well as evolving needs and preferences.


On the Horizon

Presently, employees with 26 weeks or more of service have the right to request flexible working. However, the forthcoming legislation will make this a day one entitlement, bringing all employees within scope.

In addition, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 contains measures to increase the number of requests allowed from 1 to 2 within any 12-month period and shortens the timeframe for deciding requests from 3 to 2 months. Significantly, there will be a new legal requirement for employers to consult an employee before they may reject a request.


The 'Flex at Work' Toolkit

To assist employers and employees in navigating this transformative period, Acas has a wide range of guidance and resources, which include:

  • Guidance on working from home and hybrid working: given the rise of hybrid working, Acas provides a framework for effectively managing a blend of remote and office-based work.
  • Guidance on making and responding to flexible working requests: a step-by-step guide to the current statutory flexible working request process, ensuring clarity for both employers and employees.
  • Flexible working policy template: A customisable template that helps businesses establish clear, consistent policies surrounding flexible working.


Acas Statutory Code of Practice

In 2014, Acas published a statutory Code of Practice on handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly. Significant developments since then, including significant advances in technology and mass homeworking since the pandemic, as well as the coming changes to the law, have prompted Acas to re-examine the Code. The development of the Code has been shaped by the rich submissions to Acas’s public consultation over the summer - including by members of the Good Employment Charter - alongside our own insights and expertise through our interactions with millions of customers every year.

The draft Code encourages employers to adopt a positive approach, ensuring that requests are met with due consideration and an open dialogue. It is important to note that this Code is still subject to approval by Parliament.


Embracing Flexibility for Good Work

As we enter a new phase of workplace flexibility, Acas is dedicated to guiding and supporting employers and employees through these changes. Our focus extends beyond adapting to legal changes to emphasising consideration of the broader benefits that flexible working can bring.

When implemented thoughtfully, flexible working has the potential to enhance work-life balance, contribute to increased productivity and improve employee wellbeing. Longstanding academic research shows that flexible workers have a higher level of job satisfaction and commitment. Furthermore, a CIPD survey found that 68% of employers that offer hybrid and/or remote working say it has allowed their organisation to attract and retain more talent.

These benefits are underscored by the fact that flexible work stands as one of the seven key characteristics of good employment, as identified by the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter. Alongside the other elements of the Charter – including excellent people management and enabling worker engagement and voice – access to flexible working plays a pivotal role in ensuring the overall quality of work.

We need your help to raise awareness of the upcoming changes and wider benefits of flexible working. You can find out more about how to take part in Acas’s ‘Flex at Work’ campaign here.

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Acas is the leading authority on workplace relations and dispute resolution in Great Britain. They provide free, impartial advice to employers and employees on workplace rights, rules and best practice. They also provide training and tailored support for businesses that can help them succeed. Acas is a non-departmental public body that is governed by an independent Council made up of employers, trade unions and independent members.