In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by partner Robert Williams...

Do I have to offer my workers 'flexible working' opportunities?

Q: I have recently been on an unsuccessful recruitment drive to increase numbers after losing several members of staff in the past six months. It seems that both the staff losses and failure to replace them may be related to my reluctance to agree to flexible working arrangements. The last applicant told me she had a right to request such arrangements, is this correct?

A: New laws that came in on April 6, 2024 mean that employees in the UK have a right to request that they work flexibly from the outset of their employment, and they can make two such requests in a 12-month period. The problem is that the majority of employees and almost half of the UK's employers are unaware of the new legislation, and a recent study by a high street retailer found that one in four UK workers would not consider applying for a job that was not flexible.

Flexible working appertains to when, where and how someone works and covers part-time working, working from home, hybrid working, flexitime, job sharing, compressed hours, annualised hours, term-time working and team-based rostering.

ACAS has published a Code of Practice to guide employers through the processes and considerations to follow when an employee makes a statutory request for flexible working. Whilst not every type of flexible working will be suitable for every role and every organisation, flexible working can take many forms and an employer's starting position should be to consider what may be possible.

So, the short answer to your question is yes, employees have a right to request flexible working arrangements, and employers must agree to a statutory request for flexible working unless there is a genuine business reason not to. An employment solicitor would be able to look at your specific business and the implications that flexible working may have on it and advise you as to your best approach.

This question has been answered by Robert Williams, a partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194.