Reforms to Flexible Working
In recent years, flexible working has become increasingly commonplace. Whilst it was once a right utilised by mostly working parents, usually mothers, flexibility is now of fundamental importance to most employees (surveys show that 90% of employees want employers to maintain flexible working practices introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic).
Flexibility extends beyond working part-time hours and can include requests to work from home or a different office, take extended breaks, or even requests to work condensed hours.
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will make changes to the existing right to request flexible working so that:
- Employees will no longer have to explain what effect their requested change may have on the employer and how any such effect might be dealt with.
- Employees will be entitled to make two requests (instead of one) in any 12-month period.
- Employers will not be able to refuse a request unless the employee has first been consulted; and
- Employers will have to decide within two months (reduced from three months) of receiving the request, subject to agreeing a longer decision period.
Despite some reports, the Act itself does not introduce a “day one” right to request flexible working (in place of the current requirement for 26 weeks’ continuous employment to qualify for the right). However, it is widely anticipated that this change will subsequently be made by way of secondary legislation.
New Mandatory Duty on Employers to Take Reasonable Steps to Prevent Sexual Harassment of Employees
Sexual harassment is a topic that has generated significant focus and concern from the media, the Government and the general public for some time, particularly since the #metoo movement gained widespread prominence in 2017.
Following a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace, the Government confirmed in July 2021 that it would introduce a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will:
- Introduce a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees.
- Give employment tribunals the power to uplift sexual harassment compensation by up to 25% where an employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
It is expected that the Act will come into force in October 2024.
As a result of these changes, Employers will need to undertake a thorough review of their existing policies and procedures to identify what (if any) changes are required to comply with the new rules. Employers will also have to provide appropriate training and reporting procedures.
If you would like further information on these or any other workplace issue, please contact our employment team on 01737 854500.