Employees across the United Kingdom now have the legal right to request flexible working from the moment they start a new job, marking a significant shift in workplace legislation.

Previously, this right was only applicable after an employee had been with their employer for a minimum of 26 weeks.

However, with the enactment of the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, which received Royal Assent in July, workers now have immediate access to this option.

The move has been championed by Kevin Hollinrake, the business and trade minister, who sees it as pivotal for fostering a happier and more productive workforce.

Flexible working encompasses various styles of work beyond the traditional 9-5 office setup, including adjustments to where and when someone works, aimed at providing convenience and enhancing work-life balance.

The concept first gained traction under Tony Blair’s government in the early 2000s, primarily for parents of young children and caregivers.

Demands for flexible working have surged

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, noted that the demand for flexible working surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating both understanding and adoption. He believes the new law will benefit millions by empowering them to better balance work and personal commitments while gaining more control over their work environment.

According to Cheese, the flexibility in scheduling, timing, and workplace location could be transformative, particularly for individuals with health issues, caregiving responsibilities, or specific life choices they wish to accommodate. He emphasised its significance in supporting overall wellbeing and highlighted its potential to benefit both individuals and organisations.

Effective from April 6, employers are now obliged to consult with employees before denying a flexible working request. However, there are circumstances under which such requests may be rejected, including excessive cost to the business, negative impact on performance, or inability to hire additional staff.

A new Code of Practice

To aid employers and employees in navigating these changes, the conciliation service Acas has released a new statutory Code of Practice on requests for flexible working alongside comprehensive guidance. Susan Clews, chief executive of Acas, believes this resource will help mitigate potential issues and ensure smooth implementation.

A study conducted by the campaign group Timewise revealed that half of the surveyed workers would consider requesting flexible work arrangements under the new regulations. Additionally, research by Pregnant Then Screwed found that mothers are disproportionately more likely than fathers to seek flexible working after parental leave, indicating the critical role flexibility plays in supporting caregivers in the workforce.

Joeli Brearley, chief executive of Pregnant Then Screwed, underscored the importance of flexible working, particularly for mothers who often bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving responsibilities. She highlighted the need for more job opportunities that offer flexibility to prevent limiting the career progression and earning potential of mothers.

The introduction of this legislation marks a significant step towards fostering a more inclusive and accommodating workplace environment, empowering workers to better align their professional and personal lives.

Toby Hough, Director of People & Culture at HiBob, says “ten years ago, this legislation would have been revolutionary, but today it feels out of touch with reality. In 2024, the vast majority of employees already benefit from flexible work models, and businesses that care about growth will know that it comes with having good people at the company.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.