You can now request flexible working from your first day in a job, removing the need to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment. The move is just part of a package of measures changing the landscape for workers and employers.

People will be able to make two flexible working requests every year, rather than one, under The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act. It came into force in April, covering England, Scotland and Wales. The Act cuts the time limit for employers to deal with requests from three to two months – this can only be extended if the employee agrees.

Peter Cheese, co-chair of the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, said: “This new day-one right stands to benefit millions of people, helping them to balance their work and life commitments and give them more say and more opportunity in where and how they work. 

“Flexibility around time, scheduling and place of work can be transformative in opening up opportunities for people to get into and stay in work, especially those who have health conditions, caring responsibilities, or other life choices they want to make. 

Peter, also the chief executive of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), added: “With an ageing population, and rising levels of economically inactive people due to ill health, flexible working is more important than ever, and has been shown to support better wellbeing, making it good for individuals as well as organisations.” 

Employers must not reject a request without consulting the employee. People no longer have to explain what effect the change applied for would have on the company or how that effect might be dealt with.

Flexible working includes part-time, home working, hybrid working, flexitime, job sharing, compressed hours, annualised hours, term-time working and team-based rostering.


Allowing people more choice over their working patterns creates:

  • more engagement
  • better work-life balance
  • lower stress. 
  • reduced turnover
  • narrows the gender pay gap

People who work flexibly are less likely to take time off work for mental health problems or childcare issues, for instance. They are more likely to stay in their jobs – the CIPD says an estimated 4 million people have changed careers because of a lack of flexibility.

Peter added: “Employees are often better able to balance their work needs with their personal life, while employers report being able to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce which can flex to business needs. Managed well, it’s a win-win for both.”

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns on sex discrimination, says 40 per cent of women who are not working said access to flexible work would mean they could take on more paid work. Nearly 80 per cent agreed they would be more likely to apply for a job that advertised flexible working options.

How to ask

Workers have to make requests in writing, stating that it is a statutory request for flexible working. It must include:

  • the date of the request
  • the change the employee wants in hours, times or place of work
  • the date the employee would like the change to start
  • if and when the employee has made a previous request for flexible working 

Reasons to reject

Employers must agree to a flexible working request unless there is a genuine business reason to refuse. This could include:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes to the business

Better for business

Business and trade minister Kevin Hollinrake hailed the changes: “Not only does flexible working help individuals fit work alongside other commitments – whether it’s the school drop off, studying or caring for vulnerable friends and family – it’s good business sense too, helping firms to attract more talent, increase retention and improve workforce diversity.”

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