Flexible Working: Acas Code of Practice

Flexibility has become a key factor in creating positive workplace environments. Acas says that over the last year, 3 in 10 employers have seen a rise in people working from home. In acknowledging this shift, the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (Acas) has proposed updates to its Code of Practice on requests for flexible working. 

As of now, the Code of Practice draft is awaiting parliamentary approval, with an expected implementation date in April 2024. 

The Acas Code of Practice on requests for flexible working is designed to provide guidance to both employers and employees regarding their legal rights, responsibilities, and best practices in handling statutory requests for flexible working. The Code is tied to the statutory right to request flexible working, as outlined in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and its subsequent regulations.

Flexible Working

Flexible working includes various arrangements that cater to the needs of both employees and employers in terms of working hours, location, and methods. Examples include part-time working, homeworking, hybrid working, flexitime, job sharing, compressed hours, annualised hours, term-time working, and team-based rostering. 

The updated Code emphasises the importance of considering what is possible and encourages employers to build flexibility into job roles, fostering a culture of openness to diverse working arrangements.

Investment in flexible working is recognised as a strategy that can bring numerous benefits for both employers and employees. The Code highlights the positive impact on work-life balance, health and wellbeing, accessibility of employment, addressing labour shortages, staff retention and recruitment, and the creation of more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

The Role of Employers and Managers

Business leaders and line managers are crucial in shaping a positive culture around flexible working within their organisations. The Code recommends training managers to handle requests fairly and reasonably, emphasising compliance with additional legal duties under the Equality Act 2010. Encouraging a welcoming and open attitude towards requests creates an environment where employees feel confident discussing flexible working, leading to better outcomes for all parties involved.

Handling Requests and Decision-Making

The Code stresses the importance of approaching meetings about flexible working requests with an open mind. These discussions should provide a valuable opportunity for meaningful engagement, allowing both parties to explore alternative solutions if the original request cannot be accepted. The Code also encourages employers to allow employees to be accompanied at meetings, promoting confidence in making requests and facilitating mutually agreeable solutions.

Key Considerations for Employers

The updated Acas Code reiterates that employers must agree to a statutory request for flexible working unless there is a genuine business reason not to. The potential business reasons are outlined in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and specified in the Code. In cases where a request is rejected, transparent communication about the reasoning and impartial handling of any appeal are crucial in establishing understanding and trust.

As the nature of work continues to evolve, the proposed updates to the Acas Code for Flexible Working signal a commitment to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce. By emphasising the benefits of flexibility, providing practical guidance, and promoting a positive culture around flexible working, the Code aims to create a more inclusive and accommodating work environment for employers and employees alike. 

As we await parliamentary approval, the forthcoming changes could play a significant role in shaping the future of work in the post-pandemic era.

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