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New Acas Rules on Flexible Working

Acas has released a new Code on flexible working rules, something that will impact UK parents who work.

Trying to juggle a job and a family is a modern day battle that so many of us live every single day; sure, it's a fulfilling experience that keeps us on our toes constantly, but nobody needs to deal with the stress that can come with unplanned spanners in the works. Children can and do become unwell at any given time, childcare isn't always 100% reliable, and for so many other reasons, flexible working can be an absolute lifeline for parents.

Flexible working allows us to work more consistently and maintain an acceptable work output without needing to take unpaid parental leave, leaving our employers in the lurch, yet may of us in the Bump, Baby & You community have struggled to organise a flexible working pattern, especially when starting a new role. Luckily for us, Acas have released a new Code today that will support all employees in achieving a more flexible working pattern.

Who are Acas?

We're often signposting the parents in our online parenting community to ​Acas, but who exactly are they?

Acas is the leading authority on workplace relations and dispute resolution in Great Britain. They provide excellent and free, impartial advice to employers and employees on workplace rights, rules and best practice for employers when dealing with their emplyees across a multitude of scenarios.

Acas also provides training and 'tailored support' for businesses to support them in growth and success. They are described as a 'non-departmental public body that is governed by an independent Council made up of employers, trade unions and independent members'.

What is the new Acas code on flexible working requests?

Acas has today (6th March 2024) published a new statutory Code of Practice on requests for flexible working.

As of today, ALL employees will have the right to ask their employer if they are able to do their job flexibly from their FIRST day of employment. Previously, this only applied if an employee had worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more. This is a great step forward for families who need a greater degree of flexibility to account for last minute childcare issues, sickness, and other scenarios that many of you mummies and daddied often find yourselves in.

 Susan Clews, Acas Chief Executive, has said: 

"There has been a global shift to flexible working following the pandemic, which has allowed more people to better balance their working lives and employers have also benefitted from being an attractive place to work.

 Our new Code aims to foster flexible working further and covers the new law changes. It sets out good practice on flexible working requests and will help employers and employees avoid any pitfalls. There are many types of flexible working such as part-time working, flexitime, job sharing, staggered hours, hybrid and homeworking. The starting position for businesses should be to consider what may be possible."

More about the new Acas code...

The new Acas code covers the new changes to UK law around statutory flexible working requests. These changes are;

  1. A new right to request flexible working from the first day of employment
  2. Allowing an employee to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period rather than one
  3. A new requirement that an employer must not reject a request without consulting the employee first
  4. Employers now having two months to decide on the request rather than three months.

The new Acas code went through a consultation process as a draft proposal last year. An enormous 77% majority of respondents to the consultation agreed that Acas should "reconsider the overall good practice principles when updating the Code to reflect changes to the law".

The new Acas Code actually encourages and motivates employers to give a positive view to flexible working patterns so that employee requests are not rejected by default without any sort of consideration or dialogue between bosses and employees to see if there would be a mutually workable arrangement. Acas state that it is important for employers to comply with their Code as any breach of this may be 'considered by an employment tribunal for relevant cases' - so for instance, if an unhappy employee takes their employer to tribunal, any breach of the new Code will be held against the employer.

In addition, Acas has also published new guidance to accompany the new Acas Code, and this guidance will provide examples for employers and employees on flexible working requests to support the dialogue.

You can read the new guidance in full here.

Our verdict...

This is excellent news for parents who are trying to re-enter the job market after taking time off for their children, but who may struggle to jump straight back into a full time office role. Being able to discuss and arrange flexible working from the start of a new role, as opposed to having to wait 26 weeks, means that parents can have their requests considered and hopefully fulfilled to a reasonable and mutually acceptable degree straight away; if a plan is amenable to be put in place, it will save 26 weeks worth of stress! The Code and guidance also encourages employers to work with the employee to try their best to create a flexible working plan, making it more likely that you'll get somewhere with your employer with your request rather than being denied at the outset, which is also great.

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