The Government has confirmed that as the Children and Families Bill is still making its way through Parliament and is not expected to receive Royal Assent until 21 March, the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees will not now be available from 6 April. The Government has indicated that it will implement the extension later in the year, so employers should be reviewing their flexible working policies and implementing training for staff ahead of its introduction.
In the meantime, Acas has published its response to the consultation on the new regime and the replacement of the current statutory procedure – under which employers are obliged to consider requests and only reject them if there is a clear business reason (listed in the legislation) – with a duty to respond to flexible working requests in "a reasonable manner".
With the Acas response is a final draft Code of Practice for handling requests (which includes the existing statutory business reasons for rejecting a request) and a supplementary good practice code. One amendment to the original draft Code that stands out is the removal of the suggestion that employers should approach requests from the presumption that they should be granted in the absence of a business reason for not doing so. The basis on which employers should consider requests has also been amended; it now refers to the need to weigh the benefits (for both the employee and the employer) of the request against any "adverse business impact", rather than against just the cost of implementing the changes.