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Acas releases code of practice on flexible working requests

This weekend employees gained the right to request to work flexibly from the first day of employment

After changes to flexible working rules were implemented on 6 April, Acas has released a code of practice on how to handle flexible working requests.

Under the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act, employees gained the right to request to work flexibly from the first day of employment, removing the previous 26-week qualifying period.

Employees are also able to make two requests in any 12 month period (rather than the previous one request) and an employer must not reject a request without consulting the employee and must make a decision within two months.

In response, Acas has produced a new statutory Code of Practice on handling requests for flexible working to support employers and employees through this change.

Read more: If we aren't tracking flexible working… what's the point?

Simone Cheng, senior policy advisor at Acas, told HR magazine: “Last summer, Acas launched a public consultation on a revised draft code and we invited views on our proposed approach. Following a period of wide stakeholder engagement and analysis of consultation findings, we then produced our final code, which is now in force.

“The code sets out what good practice looks like and it will be taken into account in relevant employment tribunal cases.”


Key takeaways from the code

Cheng said that the new code makes it clear that the starting position should always be to consider what may be possible: “Those familiar with Acas’ previous code on flexible work, published in 2014, will see some noticeable changes in the new one.

“A new foreword to the code sets a more positive tone about flexible work by underlining the importance of having open and meaningful conversations so that a fully informed, evidence-based decision can be made.”

Guidance on the new legal requirement to consult makes clear that, if a request cannot be accepted in full, parties should then discuss any potential modifications to the original or alternatives. 

She added: “The emphasis here is on not rejecting a request without first genuinely considering the potential benefits and trying to find if there is an arrangement that may be available and suitable for both sides.”


Other good practice recommendations in the code include that an employer should:

  • allow an employee to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative or official, at meetings held to discuss requests
  • after agreeing to a request, offer the employee an opportunity for a discussion to clarify any further information to help implement the arrangement
  • if rejecting a request, confirm in their written decision the business reason(s) why, as well as any additional information which is reasonable to help explain that decision
  • wherever possible, appoint a different manager to handle an appeal


According to a survey from Acas in January 2024, 70% of employees  and 43% of employers were not aware that the law around flexible working was changing.

Cheng hopes that the guidance will clarify the changes to flexible working rules for employers and employees.

She said: “Two decades after the introduction of the statutory right to request, the latest reforms could mark the start of a new era for flexible working. As we move forward, it is essential that every employer and employee understands what the law means for them.”