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Employment law update for businesses: what’s the latest?

With the summer holidays over and businesses returning to normal operating power, it is worth reviewing two key employment law developments, which are on the horizon.

Flexible working

A flexible working request allows an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service to make a request to vary their working arrangements. This includes changes to working hours, days – or even locations for those that may want to work remotely or from home.

Following initial consultations and proposals, on 20 July 2023 the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill received royal assent. Once the Bill becomes law in the form of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, there will be changes to the way in which employers are required to deal with requests for flexible working arrangements, which are summarised below:

  • An employee will now be permitted to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period. Currently, an employee may make one request in any 12 month period.
  • Employees will no longer be required to set out in their written request the effects, which they believe the request would have, and how any effects might be dealt with.
  • Employers will be duty-bound to consult with the employee before it can refuse a request for flexible working arrangements. Although there is no statutory definition of what form this ‘consultation’ should take, we can reasonably interpret this to be a meeting to discuss the request and reasons for any refusal.
  • The timeframe for the employer to deal with a flexible working request will reduce to two months from the current three.

You may recall previous indications that the right to request flexible working arrangements would apply on the first day of employment. The Act itself does not provide for this but the Government has announced that secondary legislation will remove the requirement for employees to have 26 weeks’ continuous service before they can make a request for flexible working.

As yet, there is no date set for when the Act will come into force but it is expected to be one year from the date that the Bill received royal assent. This should provide employers with sufficient time to review their processes before the law changes in or around July 2024.

Workplace bullying

On 11 July 2023, Rachel Maskell, the MP for York Central, introduced a framework called the Bullying and Respect at Work Bill, which seeks to address workplace bullying and foster greater respect in the workplace. The proposals under the Bill are extensive and include the introduction of a statutory definition of bullying at work, enabling claims of workplace bullying to be considered by an Employment Tribunal, and the introduction of a code of practice on respect at work.

Our employment team is often called upon to advise employers in dealing with allegations of bullying by members of staff. Such allegations are very serious as they often signal a breakdown in the employer/employee relationship for the staff involved and, commonly, are accompanied by allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment under the Equality Act 2010.

Currently, bullying at work claims can only be pursued under the head of a substantive claim such as unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, detriment because of whistleblowing or, in the most serious of cases, a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

One of the key features of the Bill is to consider the possibility of an effective standalone claim of workplace bullying which is actionable in the Employment Tribunal. This will allow an employee who is subjected to bullying at work to seek redress for any such actions, even if the bullying did not fall under one of the already established jurisdictions.

Whilst employers are always encouraged to ensure that effective measures are in place to deal with bullying and harassment, we will watch the progress of the Bill and any related matters with interest.

For help and advice on these and other employment law matters, please get in touch with our friendly team on (01482) 325242 or email 

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