• Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

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Sarah Hall of North East law firm Hay & KilnerSarah Hall of North East law firm Hay & Kilner

North East business owner should be preparing for how they’re going to manage ‘day one’ requests for flexible working from new employees.

That’s the advice from Sarah Hall, partner in the specialist employment law team at North East law firm Hay & Kilner, in advance of new workplace rules that are set to come into effect in next month.

And she is advising regional employers to review and update their workplace policies as soon as possible to ensure they’re fit for purpose when the new regulations come in.

Until now, employees have had to have 26 weeks’ service with the same employer before they are able to make a statutory request for working in flexible ways which better suit their personal situations.

But under the new regulations, employees will be able to do this as soon as they begin a new job, with their employers potentially facing legal problems if they’re not prepared to manage the request according to the law.

The new rules, which are expected to become law on 6 April, follow a range of flexible working measures that were introduced after the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill came into force.

These include a new requirement for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request, and a reduction in the time allowed to a decision to be made from three months to two.

Employees will also be able to make two flexible working requests in any rolling 12-month period, instead of just one, and will no longer need to explain what effect agreeing to the request will have on their employer or how this could best be managed.

Sarah Hall says: “We’ve all become very used to flexible working practices over recent years and many employers have found ways to introduce them into their operations in ways which benefit both them and their employees.

“However, as a result of these changes, we are now likely to see an increase in flexible working requests and employees who have just joined the organisation may immediately submit a request to change how they work, despite not mentioning this during the recruitment process.

“Employers will need to be prepared for a flexible working request being made from a new employee’s very first day in their new role, in terms of both how the request will be managed and what impact granting it could have on their operations.

“Failure to update flexible working policies and comply with the new requirements could have financial consequences for employers, while particular care should be taken if employees are making requests because of ill health, religious reasons or because they need to care for dependants, as employees may have enhanced protection in these cases.

There are also a number of other upcoming changes this year, including changes to paternity leave and carer’s leave, which means that reviewing policies and procedures should be more of a priority than ever for employers this year.”