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Flexible Working Request Reform – Changes in 2023

Jan 27, 2023

New government reforms aim to make flexible working the default in the UK.

What Are the New Flexible Working Rules?

Under the new rules, UK employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of their employment. The new rules also aim to remove exclusivity clause restrictions, to make it easier for employees to work for multiple employers at once.

What is Flexible Working?

What does the government mean by “flexible working”? Essentially, they seem to mean any working arrangement that is not a standard 9-5. This might include:

  • A combination of working from home and from the office, or the ability to work entirely from home.
  • Job-sharing, flexitime and other non-standard working practices.
  • The ability to work compressed, annualised, and staggered hours.

So what’s going to change?

New Flexible Working Rules 2023

  • Employees will have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment. Previously, employees had to wait 26 weeks before they requested flexible working.
  • Employers can no longer outright reject flexible working requests. Instead, they must consult with the employee who made the request, to discuss alternative arrangements. However, the “eight reasons to refuse a request” will stay in place.
  • Employers must make a decision on flexible working requests within two months. Previously, employers had three months to make their decision.
  • Employees can make two statutory requests for flexible working in any 12-month period. Previously, employees could only make one statutory request a year.
  • Employees no longer have to explain how a flexible working change would affect their employer, nor do they have to explain how they’ll deal with this change. Previously, employees were required to supply this information as part of their statutory request.

Exclusivity Clauses Exemption Changes for 2023

Exclusivity clauses restrict workers from working for multiple employers. But under the new rules, workers on contracts with a guaranteed weekly income of £123 a week or less will now be exempt from exclusivity clauses.

The government believes that this will allow around 1.5 million low paid workers to boost their earnings through working multiple short-term contracts at once.

What Will These Changes Mean For Employees and Employers?

It’s clear how these new rules will benefit employees. Millions of workers will now have a much greater say in how, where, and when they work. This will enable many to enjoy a better work/life balance, and to make time for other commitments, such as studying or caring.

But how will these changes benefit employers? First, giving employees greater control over their working lives could lead to happier and more productive staff. So many businesses might see a boost in performance, improved staff retention, and better relationships between staff and management.

Also, the end of the exclusivity clause will allow some businesses to address staff shortages, as they’ll be able to recruit from a much wider talent pool.

Though managers and HR departments may struggle with a deluge of flexible working requests, and it may not be possible to accommodate every request. Throughout lockdown, many businesses had to adjust to non-standard working practices. With these new rules, many more businesses might have to permanently adjust to measures they previously assumed were temporary.

When Will These Changes Come Into Force?

There is currently no timeline for when these new rules will apply.

A Private Member’s Bill is currently making its way through parliament. It had a reading in early December 2022, after which the government confirmed its intentions to introduce these changes.

Though there’s not yet a date for when these changes will come into effect, you should expect these rules to apply sooner rather than later. So if you need to update your flexible working policies, and if you need to introduce any new procedures to allow for flexible working, the time to act is now.

While you’re reviewing your employment policies, it might also be a good idea to review your business insurance. At Anthony Jones, we always have a team of experts on hand who are happy to advise on any of the risks you might face as a business. Contact us on 020 8290 9080, or email us at business@anthonyjones.com.


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